Where is Peng Shuai?

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Rebecca St Fleur, EHS Class of 2024, Contributor

Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion and three-time Olympian disappeared after accusing a top leader of the Communist Party, Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her in his home. Afterwards, the Chinese government removed all coverage and references of Peng inside China. But outside of the country, the world was scared for the tennis star.

With doubts about her safety spreading, videos of Peng were released by the government’s media of her doing seemingly normal activities of everyday life. But the public was not satisfied. They had not heard from Peng herself yet, and weren’t sure if these videos were recorded of her own free will and it wasn’t verifiable if the clips were recent.

Then, China’s state-owned broadcaster released a message, claiming it was from Peng, which few actually believed. “Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai,” it said. It called the accusation of sexual assault, which was made only weeks ago, fake. “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe,” the message read. “I’ve been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me.”

With no actual information confirming the safety of Peng, notable names in tennis are demanding of proof. Just Wednesday, the Women’s Tennis Association announced that they would be immediately suspending all games in China. This makes them the only big sports organization to voice their opposition against China’s growing authoritarian government.

Steve Simon, a chief executive of the WTA said in a statement, “While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback,” he added. “I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

Simon said that women’s tennis would not come back to China unless its officials could speak to Peng without government interference and a full investigation into her assault accusations could be administered. “China’s leaders have left the WTA with no choice.” This move of pulling out of China will cost women’s tennis millions of dollars, but it’s worth it to find out if Peng Shuai is really safe.