Peng Shuai backtracks sexual assault claim in dubious video

In a video interview by a Singapore newspaper, Peng Shuai denies her sexual assault claim, only to raise more concerns about her safety

Peng Shuai has denied allegations of sexual assault, raising concerns about her safety and freedom

Former doubles World No 1 Peng Shuai appeared in a video interview on Sunday in which she denied the sexual assault claims she had earlier made in a social media post.

A reporter from Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao approached Shuai on the sidelines of a skiing event in Shanghai.

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“First of all, I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me. I need to emphasize this point very clearly,” Shuai said in the interview.

In November, Shuai had posted a lengthy note on her Weibo account recounting details of being sexually abused by former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. The post was immediately deleted and Shuai disappeared despite the WTA making repeated attempts to get in touch with the player.

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Subsequently, the #WhereIsPengShuai message went viral on social media, with a number of players like – but not limited to – Naomi Osaka, Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams repeating the message.

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China’s state-run news agency CGTN later published screenshots of an email that was allegedly sent by Shuai to WTA chief Steve Simon, in which she claimed she was safe and denied the allegation.

In the Sunday video, Shuai claimed the letter was written “entirely of my own free will,” but that she had some help in translating it to English.

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WTA unconvinced

Reacting to the latest video of the two-time Grand Slam champion, the WTA however remains adamant in their concern for her safety.

“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern,” a WTA spokesperson said according to The New York Times.

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“As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”

Earlier this month, the WTA took the decision to suspend all its ties with China due to concerns of Shuai’s well-being.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) later decided to cut all ties with the East Asian country as well.