News World Peng Shuai says she never made sexual assault accusation

Peng Shuai says she never made sexual assault accusation

New video has emerged of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Photo: Getty
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Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied ever accusing anyone of sexually assaulting her, and says a social media post she had made early last month had been misunderstood.

However, the comments have not eased concerns by the Women’s Tennis Association, which said on Monday it still had “significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion”.

Peng’s wellbeing has become a matter of concern among the global tennis community and human rights groups since early November, after she appeared to allege a former Chinese vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past.

After that post, she was absent from public view for nearly three weeks. But early on Monday, she turned up again, this time in a video posted to social media by Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore media outlet.

“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng said in the video.

Peng’s remarks are the first time she had addressed the matter on camera in public. She spoke on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai.

She said her post on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site, which had been quickly removed, was a “private matter”.

Peng, 35, said in the video that “people have many misunderstandings” about her Weibo post. She did not elaborate.

She also said that she had been living at home in Beijing without supervision. She did not mention Zhang.

Reuters has been unable to reach Peng since her Weibo post.

On Monday, the WTA said it was still not convinced of Peng’s safety and wellbeing.

“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault,” it said in a statement to AFP.

Early this month, the WTA, which has sought a direct line of communication with Peng, said it would suspend tournaments in China immediately due to concerns over the treatment of Peng and the safety of other players.

China has not directly commented on Peng’s initial post, but said after the WTA’s move to suspend tournaments in China that it “opposes the politicisation of sports”.

Mr Zhang has not commented.

Discussion of the scandal, which emerged as Beijing prepares to stage the Winter Olympics in February, has been heavily censored in China.

Peng said in Monday’s video that she had personally written last month to WTA head Steve Simon, denying the allegation of assault. She said an English translation of her letter by Chinese state media was accurate.

Mr Simon had said at the time that he “had a hard time believing” that Peng had actually written the email or believed what had been attributed to her.

The International Olympic Committee has held two video calls with the 35-year-old Peng.

At the Shanghai event, Peng appeared on a fifth-floor viewing balcony with athletes from various sports, including former NBA basketball star Yao Ming, and watched for about 20 minutes, according to the Lianhe Zaobao report.

She wore a black jacket with a China flag and a red T-shirt with the characters for China.