Tennis player Peng Shuai “is at home and will appear in public soon,” the editor of a Chinese government-affiliated newspaper said Saturday amid growing international concerns over the player’s whereabouts.
Citing his own “sources,” Hu Xijin of the official ‘Global Times’ newspaper tweeted today that Peng “has stayed at home in recent days because she did not want to be disturbed.”
“She will appear in public soon and will participate in some activities,” Hu said in statements that follow alleged images of the tennis player released last night – also on Twitter, a banned medium in the Asian country – in which, surrounded by stuffed animals, she wished a “happy weekend”, images that have been called into question.
Photos of Peng Shuai
These are the first images that appear of the tennis player since concerns began to grow about her disappearance more than two weeks ago, although it is impossible to determine when and where the pictures were taken.
In the images, retweeted by journalist Shen Shiwei of state broadcaster CGTN, the tennis player can be seen surrounded by stuffed animals wishing her a “happy weekend” via the Wechat social network.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which claimed “verifiable proof” that the player is safe, has not yet commented on these images.
Peng-Shuai photos published by PRC media are fake:https://t.co/kW4uttcWIY
There are many, didn’t mark all. Example: left, marked cat area; right, expanded the area, clearly there are C/P/edit works. pic.twitter.com/M5Q2zMwJXW
— zhiyanle (@zhiyanle) November 20, 2021
Allegation of abuse
The former world number one doubles player has been missing since she accused former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually abusing her on November 2.
Also the ATP, through its president Andrea Gaudenzi, said on Friday that the safety of the tennis player is the priority right now and that it is “vital” that there is some direct contact with her.
Earlier, the television channel CGTN forwarded another alleged statement from the tennis player in which she denied the abuse and assured that she was fine.
Both the WTA and other organizations such as Amnesty International and the UN have questioned the veracity of that statement.
Censorship in China
Earlier this month, Peng, 35 and current world number 189, claimed through her Weibo social network profile that Zhang, 75, had sexually abused her, in a publication that disappeared from the internet 20 minutes later.
Any reference to the tennis player or the case remains completely banned on Chinese social networks and media.
Peng led the world doubles ranking in 2012 and won Wimbledon and Roland Garros, which took her to the pinnacle of tennis in her country.