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Forced? Chinese media posts videos of missing Wimbledon champ possibly kidnapped by Chinese gov’t; WTA rejects

Peng Shuai (Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons)
November 22, 2021

On Saturday, Chinese state-run media shared videos on Twitter of missing Wimbledon champion Peng Shuai, who disappeared after publicly accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault. Many have suspected the Chinese Communist Party is attempting to cover up Peng’s kidnapping.

Global Times Editor in Chief Hu Xijin posted two videos on his personal Twitter account showing Peng eating out at a restaurant and having a conversation with “her coach and friends.”

“I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant,” Xijin tweeted. “The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time.”

Xijin posted a second video of the Chinese tennis player that showed Peng entering the Beijing restaurant.

“This is the second clip,” Xijin wrote.

On November 2, Peng accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex. Peng revealed the alleged incident in a post on the Chinese social media network Weibo.

Within 30 minutes of publication, Peng’s post was deleted and Chinese censors immediately worked to remove all mentions of the accusation online. The popular tennis star’s Weibo account – which has over 500,000 followers — was also blocked from searchers.

Women’s Tennis Association Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said the videos were not enough to prove Peng is free.

“While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,” Simon said in a statement. “This video alone is insufficient. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”

Last week, the WTA leader threatened to pull hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business out of China if the player is not accounted for.

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Steve Simon told CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”

According to Simon, the WTA has been in contact with the Chinese Tennis Association, who assured him that Peng was unharmed in Beijing. However, all attempts to speak with Peng directly have failed.

“We have reached out to her on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact,” Simon said. “There’s so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have, and to date we still have not been able to get a response.”

After initially refusing to comment on the missing three-time Olympian for China, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday issued a statement claiming to have had a 30-minute video call with Peng, who they is “safe and well.”

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated,” said Emma Terho, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

The IOC had previously told CNN that “quiet diplomacy” was the best approach to find a solution for questions of such nature.”

“This explains why the IOC will not comment any further at this stage,” the group said.

Human Rights Watch was stunned by the IOC’s early silence on the Olympian’s disappearance, writing in a statement that it is “astonishing that the IOC would accept the government’s assurances, particularly at the expense of a female Olympian making grave allegations.”