Beijing, Nov 20 (EFE).- Photos supposed to show Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, published on social media by a journalist affiliated with the Chinese state media, on Saturday raised fresh doubts about the whereabouts of the athlete, who has not been seen in public for two weeks since she accused a senior official of sexual assault.
These are the first images of Peng to appear in public domain in over two weeks, as concerns grew over her disappearance, although it is impossible to determine 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