Sports Desk, Nov 18 (EFE).- The head of the Women’ Tennis Association has cast doubt on an email claiming to have been written by missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.
Peng, a 35-year-old former world No. 1 doubles player, has not been heard from since she accused a top Chinese official of sexual assault two weeks ago in a post on Chinese social media. The post was quickly removed and tennis stars and public around the world have since expressed concern for her safety and whereabouts.
Chinese state media CGTN early Thursday, Beijing time, tweeted a picture of the email it said Peng had sent to WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon.
The text reads: “Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai. Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent.”
“The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor I am unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me.”
Many have cast doubt on the authenticity of the email, some pointing out a text cursor that can be seen in the picture.
Simon released a note saying that “the statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.”
“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail,” he added.
“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”
On Wednesday, Naomi Osaka said she was “recently informed of a fellow tennis player that had gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused.”
“I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way,” she added.
Osaka joined other voices from the tennis world who have drawn attention to the case of Peng, one of the best-known sports figures in China, who in her post accused her country’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
Zhang, 75, is considered one of the most influential men in Chinese politics of the past decade. EFE