Who, and Where, Is Peng Shuai?

A easy query has gripped the sports activities world and drawn the eye of the White House, United Nations and others:

Where is Peng Shuai?

The Chinese tennis star disappeared from public view for weeks this month after she accused a high Chinese chief of sexual assault, prompting a worldwide refrain of concern for her security. Then, this weekend, the editor of a Communist Party-controlled newspaper posted video clips that seem to point out Ms. Peng consuming at a restaurant and attending a tennis occasion in Beijing. And on Sunday, the International Olympic Committee stated its president had spoken together with her in a video name.

A consultant for the Women’s Tennis Association stated it was “good to see” Ms. Peng in latest movies, however added that the group remained involved about her skill to speak freely. China’s authoritarian authorities has a protracted report of iron-fisted remedy of people that threaten to undermine public confidence within the social gathering’s senior leaders.

With only some months to go earlier than Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Ms. Peng’s state of affairs may change into one other level of pressure in China’s more and more fractious relationship with the broader world.

Peng Shuai, 35 — her household identify is pronounced “pung,” and the tip of her given identify rhymes with “why” — is a three-time Olympian whose tennis profession started greater than twenty years in the past.

In February 2014, after profitable the doubles crown at Wimbledon with Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan the 12 months earlier than, Ms. Peng rose to change into a world No. 1 in doubles, the primary Chinese participant, male or feminine, to achieve the highest rank in both singles or doubles. She and Ms. Hsieh took the 2014 French Open doubles title as effectively.

Her doubles profession underwent a resurgence in 2016 and 2017. But in 2018, she was barred from skilled play for six months, with a three-month suspension, after she was discovered to have tried to make use of “coercion” and monetary incentives to alter her Wimbledon doubles associate after the sign-in deadline. She has not competed professionally since early 2020.

Late within the night on Nov. 2, Ms. Peng posted a protracted notice on the Chinese social platform Weibo that exploded throughout the Chinese web.

In the posting, she accused Zhang Gaoli, 75, a former vice premier, of inviting her to his dwelling about three years in the past and coercing her into intercourse. “That afternoon, I didn’t consent at first,” she wrote. “I was crying the entire time.”

She and Mr. Zhang started a consensual, if conflicted, relationship after that, she wrote. Mr. Zhang had served from 2012 to 2017 on China’s high ruling physique, the Politburo Standing Committee.

Within minutes, censors scrubbed Ms. Peng’s account from the Chinese web. A digital blackout on her accusations has been in place ever since.

Women in China who come ahead as victims of sexual assault and predation have lengthy been met with censorship and pushback. But Ms. Peng’s account, which has not been corroborated, is the primary to implicate such a high-level Communist Party chief, which can be why the authorities have been further diligent in silencing all dialogue of the matter, at one level even blocking on-line searches for the phrase “tennis.”

The censors might need succeeded had Steve Simon, the top of the Women’s Tennis Association, not spoken out on Nov. 14, calling on Beijing to research Ms. Peng’s accusations and cease attempting to bury her case.

Confronting China has include substantial penalties for different sports activities organizations. But Mr. Simon advised CNN that the WTA was ready to drag its enterprise out of China over the matter.

Fellow tennis luminaries — the listing to date contains Naomi Osaka, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Billie Jean King — have been talking out in assist of Ms. Peng. The Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué posted with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to his 20 million Twitter followers.

The Biden administration and United Nations human rights workplace have joined the requires Beijing to supply proof of Ms. Peng’s well-being.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal revealed an essay by Enes Kanter, a middle for the Boston Celtics, through which he referred to as for the Winter Games to be moved from Beijing. Mr. Kanter has been a vocal critic of the Chinese authorities, assailing its insurance policies in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The National Basketball Association’s streaming associate in China pulled Celtics video games from its platform final month after he started posting his criticisms on social media.

“All the gold medals in the world aren’t worth selling your values and your principles to the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Kanter wrote in The Journal.

The International Olympic Committee hinted that it was partaking in “quiet diplomacy” to untangle the state of affairs. And on Sunday, the committee stated its president, Thomas Bach, spoke with Ms. Peng for half an hour that day by video. She advised Mr. Bach and two different I.O.C. officers that “she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected,” the committee stated. A photograph of Ms. Peng smiling on a big display screen in entrance of Mr. Bach appeared alongside the committee’s announcement.

After the committee shared the information, the WTA reiterated its name for a “full, fair and transparent investigation” into Ms. Peng’s sexual assault allegation.

Nothing. Not formally, at the least.

Instead, Chinese state-run information organizations and their staff have been the only real quasi-official voices from the nation to weigh in. Notably, they’re doing so on Twitter, which is blocked inside China. Their messages seem like aimed particularly at persuading the broader world.

First, a Chinese state broadcaster posted an email on Twitter, written in English and attributed to Ms. Peng, that disavowed the assault accusation and stated she was simply “resting at home.” Mr. Simon dismissed the e-mail as a crude fabrication and stated it solely deepened his considerations for the tennis star’s security.

Then, Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of the state-controlled newspaper Global Times, started sharing movies that seem to point out Ms. Peng along with his 450,000 Twitter followers.

In Mr. Hu’s first Twitter remarks on the subject, he stated he didn’t imagine Ms. Peng was being punished “for the thing that people talked about,” declining even to state the character of her accusations.

On Saturday, Mr. Hu posted two video clips that he stated he had “acquired.”

In one clip, a person is talking with a girl who seems to be Ms. Peng at a restaurant when he refers to “tomorrow” as Nov. 20. Another girl on the desk corrects him, saying tomorrow is the twenty first. Ms. Peng nods in settlement.

The man seems to be Zhang Junhui, an government with the China Open tennis match.

On Sunday, Mr. Hu posted one other clip, which he stated had been shot by a Global Times worker, that exhibits Ms. Peng on the opening ceremony of a tennis occasion in Beijing. Zhang Junhui appears to be standing to Ms. Peng’s proper.

The China Open posted photographs from the identical occasion on its Weibo account on Sunday. The photographs present Ms. Peng waving to the group and autographing tennis balls, though the publish doesn’t identify her.

Mr. Hu has not shared any of those movies on Weibo, the place he has 24 million followers.

In an announcement, Mr. Simon of the WTA stated the clips alone have been “insufficient” to show that Ms. Peng was not dealing with coercion.

“Our relationship with China is at a crossroads,” he stated.




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