Peng Shuai: Naomi Osaka Joins Chorus of International Concern for Chinese Tennis Star

“Censorship is never OK at all costs, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and well. I am in shock of the current situation and I am sending love and light her way,” Osaka said as part of a Twitter account -declaration. on Tuesday.

She included the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

Peng, one of China’s most recognizable tennis stars, accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex in his home three years ago, according to screenshots from a since-deleted social media post dated Nov. 2.

Peng’s post on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform, was taken down within 30 minutes of publication, with Chinese censors rushing into action to wipe out any mention of the accusation online.

Peng has not been seen in public since the accusation and her whereabouts have not been made public. Her Weibo account, which has more than half a million followers, is still blocked from searchers on the platform.

A growing number of international athletes have expressed concern about Peng. Tennis legend and 39-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King said on Twitter: “Hopefully that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her allegations are fully investigated.”

And former world No. 1 Chris Evert said: “These allegations are deeply disturbing.”

“I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information is appreciated,” she said in a tweet.

Chinese tennis star accuses former Communist Party leader of sexual assault, sparking widespread censorship
On Sunday, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) called on the Chinese government to investigate the allegations, insisting that the former top doubles player should be “heard, not censored”.
In a statement, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said Peng’s allegations were “deep concern”, adding that the allegations should be “completely, fairly, transparently and without censorship” investigated.

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, uncensored,” Simon said. “Her accusation about the behavior of a former Chinese leader regarding sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”

The ATP Tour, a top men’s tennis tour of the world, said in a statement Monday that it was “encouraged by WTA’s recent commitments that (Peng) is safe and responsible and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” No further details were provided as to the accuracy of the warranties – or who provided them.

“Individually, we fully support the WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Peng Shuai,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in the statement.

Zhang, 75, served on the ruling Communist Party’s seven-member Politiburo Standing Committee, the country’s highest leadership body, from 2012 to 2017 during the first term of office of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He retired as Deputy Prime Minister in 2018.

In the post, which reads like an open letter to Zhang, the 35-year-old tennis star claims to have been in a relationship over an intermittent period of at least 10 years.

“Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your house to force me to have sex with you?” she wrote.

Peng said she had no evidence to prove her allegations, claiming that Zhang was always afraid she would record things.

“I couldn’t describe how disgusting I was, and how many times I wondered if I’m still human? I feel like a walking corpse,” Peng wrote.

CNN cannot independently verify Peng’s post and has approached both her and the Chinese State Council, which handles press inquiries for the central government, for comment.

Former Czech American tennis player Martina Navratilova said she supported the WTA’s call for an investigation. “A very strong stance from the WTA – and the right attitude,” she says wrote on Twitter.

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