Chinese state media has posted photos of missing tennis star Peng Shuai amid rising global concern that she hasn’t made a public appearance in more than two weeks.
Peng, a former doubles world No.1 and three-time Olympian, has not been active in public since she accused a former top Communist party official of rape.
Photos were posted early Saturday purporting to show a seemingly happy Peng along with the comment ‘Happy Weekend’.
The pictures were posted to Twitter by Shen Shiwei, from CGTN (the English-language arm of China Central Television), who claimed they were posted by Peng on WeChat.
The post claimed Peng would soon be making an appearance.
I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai's current state. In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon. https://t.co/VGLt6qoOOh
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) November 20, 2021
It is not known when the photos were taken.
Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she said on Chinese social media on November 2 that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
The Athletes Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) joined the chorus of support and said it was “very concerned” about her situation.
A two-time doubles Grand Slam winner and former world number one doubles player, Peng competed for China at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Beijing will host the 2022 winter Olympics in February.
The International Olympic Committee has said only that it believed “quiet diplomacy” offered the best opportunity for a solution.
“We support the quiet diplomacy approach that is being taken and hope it will lead to the release of information about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai and confirmation of her safety and well-being,” the IOC said.
Roger Federer has also spoken out about the safety of a member of the “tennis family”.
“She’s one of our tennis champions, a former world No. 1, and clearly it’s concerning. I hope she’s safe,” he said.
“The tennis family sticks together and I’ve always told my children as well that the tennis family is my second family.
“I’ve been on tour for 20-25 years and I love the tour, I love the people that are there, (they) are special, the players as well, and she’s one of them.”
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, and the men’s ATP has demanded clarity from the Chinese authorities. The United States has called for proof of Peng’s whereabouts and safety.
The United Nations Human Rights Office has also expressed concern and on Saturday the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs the Wimbledon tournament, added their voice.
It said: “We are united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe. We have been working in support of the WTA’s efforts to establish her safety through our relationships behind the scenes.
“Along with the global tennis community, we would like Peng Shuai to know that her wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us, and we will continue to work to gain clarity on her safety.”
Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, a prominent state-media journalist, said earlier on Saturday that Peng has been staying at home “freely” and will make a public appearance “soon”.