In her first public comments since accusing a senior Chinese official of sexual assault, women’s tennis player Peng Shuai denied ever making the accustions, saying there “has been a lot of misunderstanding.”
Peng’s statements were to a Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper called Lianhe Zaobao.
“I want to emphasize one thing that is very important,” Peng said. “That I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulted me. This point is very important to be emphasized clearly.”
“First of all, it’s my personal privacy,” she continued. “There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here.”
According to CNN, Peng said she has “always been free” and has been living at her home in Beijing.
As has been the case following any update on Peng’s situation, the Women’s Tennis Association is not satisfied with the latest news surrounding Peng’s safety.
“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern,” the WTA said in a statement on Monday.
“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well,” the WTA said. “As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”
Peng’s safety has been a concern since her November 2nd social media post in which she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her three years ago following a round of tennis. She also said Zhang’s wife guarded the door. Her post was deleted nearly 30 minutes after publication and Peng’s account on Weibo — a Chinese social media platform — was blocked from searchers on the platform.
Peng was not seen or heard from publicly until a November 17 statement attributed to Peng was shared on Twitter by CGTN — a Chinese state-affiliated media company — where Peng denied her claim that Zhang sexually assaulted her.
The IOC has held two calls with Peng, including a December 2nd call that “reconfirmed” that Peng appeared to be “appeared to be safe and well.”
Shortly after the second call with the IOC, the WTA announced a suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including in Hong Kong.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” WTA CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement to the WTA website. “While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.”
“As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,” Simon added. “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].