The UN yesterday said it wants proof of the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (彭帥), missing ever since she made sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese vice premier.
The UN Human Rights Office called for a fully transparent investigation into the former Grand Slam doubles champion’s claims against Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli (張高麗), while the head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said he is prepared to cut lucrative business ties with China if Peng remains unaccounted for and her allegations are not investigated.
“It would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and well-being and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Peng, 35, who won the Wimbledon and the French Open women’s doubles titles with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇), alleged on Sina Weibo on Nov. 2 that Zhang had “forced” her into sex during a long-term, on-off relationship.
The claims were quickly scrubbed from the platform and she has not been seen since, drawing mounting concern over her well-being.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) yesterday stuck to the government’s line that it was not aware of the controversy surrounding Peng.
Zhao again said it was “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation.”
The ministry has consistently disavowed knowledge of the issue since Peng made her accusation more than two weeks ago.
WTA chairman Steve Simon on Thursday told CNN that he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese business in one of the organization’s biggest markets to ensure Peng’s safety.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said.
“Women need to be respected and not censored,” he added.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams on Thursday joined Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic in drawing attention to the case.
“I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai,” former world No. 1 Williams wrote on Twitter.
“I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent,” she said.
Williams’ tweet was accompanied by a photograph of a smiling Peng captioned with #WhereIsPengShuai.
Peng also competed in three Olympics, making her disappearance all the more prominent with Beijing set to host the Winter Games starting on Feb. 4
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) declined to comment yesterday, saying in an e-mailed statement: “Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature. This explains why the IOC will not comment any further at this stage.”
Additional reporting by AP
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