Sports

Peng Shuai to soon appear in public, Chinese journalist claims

Beijing, Nov 20 (EFE).- The editor of a Chinese state media outlet claimed on Saturday that tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been seen in public since accusing a former vice premier of sexual assault, is in her house and will soon “show up in public.”

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of official daily Global Times, tweeted that Peng “stayed in her own home freely” because “she didn’t want to be disturbed,” citing his “own sources.”

“She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon,” Hu said while retweeting photos purported to show the tennis player which were shared by another journalist working for state media on Friday night. He claimed to have confirmed that these photos showed Peng in her “current state.”

These were the first images of Peng to appear in public domain in over two weeks, as concerns grew over her disappearance, although it has not been independently verified that where and when they were taken.

In the photos, tweeted by journalist Shen Shiwei – who works for state broadcaster CGTN – the tennis player can be seen surrounded by stuffed toys, wishing “happy weekend” on the Chinese social network Wechat.

The Women’s Tennis Association, which had demanded “verifiable proof” that Peng was safe, has not yet responded to the photos.

The former world no. 1 in women’s doubles has been missing since Nov. 2, when she accused China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse.

The president of the Association of Tennis Professionals, Andrea Gaudenzi, also insisted on Friday that the tennis player’s safety was an immediate priority and that it was vital to establish direct contact with her.

Earlier, CGTN had released a statement claiming to be from Peng in which she had denied her allegations of sexual assault and said she was safe.

However, the WTA, the United Nations and rights groups such as Amnesty International have questioned the veracity of the statement.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday denied having any knowledge of the case and said that this was not a diplomatic matter.

At the beginning of this month, 35-year-old Peng – currently ranked 189th in the world – had published a message on Chinese social media site Weibo alleging that Zhang Gaoli, the country’s vice premier between 2012-17, had “forced” her into sex.

The post disappeared less than 30 minutes later.

Peng has been one of the leading tennis stars of her country, having won two Grand Slam Doubles, first at Wimbledon in 2013 and at the French Open the following year. EFE

jco/ia

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