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Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the country’s government is “not aware” of any information related to the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai.
Lijian told reporters Friday the situation is “not a diplomatic question,” according to the Associated Press.
On Nov. 2, Peng made a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media site, alleging sexual assault by former government official Zhang Gaoli during an encounter three years ago.
The allegations were quickly deleted from the platform, and the former top-ranked doubles player in the world hasn’t been heard from since.
CGTN, a state-run broadcast outlet in China, released an email it said came from Peng saying she was safe and denying the sexual assault took place:
WTA Chairman Steve Simon released a statement saying the unverified email “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts:”
“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.
“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”
Many of tennis’ biggest stars, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka, have raised questions about the well-being of two-time doubles Grand Slam champion.
Simon told CNN he’s willing to cut the Tour’s relationship with China if answers aren’t provided.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” he said Thursday. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”
Peng, who also reached the semifinals of the 2014 US Open as a singles player, most recently played the Qatar Open in February 2020.