The Women’s Tennis Association, governing body for women’s tennis, has called for a fair investigation into Chinese player Shuai Peng’s sexual assault allegations against top politician.
The 35-year-old Peng, who had accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assualt, has reportedly been missing for the last 10 days.
“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” said WTA chairman Steve Simon in a statement released Sunday.
Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.🙏 https://t.co/RH0aYCDqQm
— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) November 14, 2021
It is the first time that the #MeToo movement has reached the highest echelons of the ruling Communist Party.
After Peng alleged that Zhang, who is now in his seventies, had “forced” her into sex and they had an on-off relationship that lasted several years on her Weibo (equivalent of Twitter) account, she has been erased from all Chinese web and social media sites.
“As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on – equality, opportunity and respect,” Simon added.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.
“Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done.”
‘#WhereIsPengShuai’ has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of days after it emerged that the Chinese star had disappeared after making the explosive claim.
Let's not remain silent #WhereIsPengShuai 😰😰😰
— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) November 13, 2021
— Nico Mahut (@nmahut) November 14, 2021
The hashtag was also used on Saturday by French player Alize Cornet who said “let’s not remain silent” and British Davis Cup player Liam Broady who wrote on Sunday: “I can’t believe that this is even happening in the 21st century.”
Hundreds of others have used the hashtag to ask the same question, emphasising the silence of the continued silence of the International Federation (ITF).
“The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned,” tweeted another French player, Nicolas Mahut, on Sunday after the statement was released.
There has been no further word from Peng and also no public response from Zhang, a former member of China’s powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and reportedly close to Premier Li Keqiang.