Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai (彭帥) has been staying in her own home “freely” and would make a public appearance “soon,” Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡錫進), a prominent state media journalist, said yesterday.
Former doubles world No. 1 Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she said on Chinese social media on Nov. 2 that former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli (張高麗) coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on her allegation. Peng’s social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s heavily censored Internet.
The US on Friday demanded proof of the 35-year-old’s whereabouts and well-being, with the UN also calling for a transparent investigation into Peng’s claims.
“In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn’t want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.
Amid growing concern about her whereabouts, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to pull tournaments out of China and the men’s ATP has demanded clarity from the Chinese authorities.
Meanwhile, unverified photographs of Peng have been posted online by a state-affiliated journalist.
The Twitter account @shen_shiwei, labeled “Chinese state-affiliated media” by the social network, posted four undated images of her late on Friday.
In a tweet, @shen_shiwei said the pictures, which could not be independently verified by Agence France-Presse, were shared on Peng’s WeChat Moments, a function often restricted to friends, to wish her followers a “good weekend.”
One photo shows the smiling player with a cat in her arms, with stuffed animals, a trophy, a Chinese flag and certificates visible in the background.
Another shot shows a selfie of Peng with a toy from the children’s animation Kung Fu Panda, with an image of Winnie-the-Pooh in the background.
The Winnie-the-Pooh character is often censored online in China as critics say it resembles Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Requests for comment from the user @shen_shiwei were not immediately answered.
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