Tennis icon Serena Williams joins the voices to question Peng Shuai’s disappearance, as she has not been heard of since she publicized her sexual assault case with a high-profile Chinese politician.
“I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible,” Williams wrote on Twitter. “This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time.”
Williams added a hashtag that reads #WhereIsPengShuai and a picture of the Chinese tennis player smiling. The image has become iconic since her disappearance garnered international attention.
Shuai, a renowned Chinese tennis star, on Nov. 2 posted on local social media that she was sexually assaulted by China’s former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli. Her story only survived for half an hour before swiftly vanishing from the site; she has never been heard from since.
The Chinese Communist government is infamous for monitoring what its internet may be able to contain. Sensitive information associated with the private lives of its politicians is among the subjects strictly filtered.
Anxiety for her safety continues to grow as Chinese state media updated an unverified letter with the author posing as Shuai claiming that she was unharmed and the sexual allegations were invalid.
“The allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe,” the letter purportedly assigned to the WTA reads.
Steve Simon, chief executive of the WTA, cast doubts over the authenticity of the letter and added that the WTA had tried to contact Shuai multiple times but has been unable to meet anyone who has met her directly to confirm her current condition and whereabouts.
Before the suspicious letter, the WTA was reassured by the Chinese Tennis Association that Shuai was unharmed. It had demanded the Chinese government to conduct a transparent investigation into her case and to cease their censorship of the woman.
The calls for Peng Shuai’s whereabouts are joined by coach Patrick Mouratoglou and stars including Benoit Paire, Julia Goerges, Maria Sakkari, and Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka.
The International Tennis Writers’ Association has also questioned where Peng Shuai is on Friday, Nov. 16, New.com.au reported.
“Peng Shuai’s allegations are very serious, and she is very brave to have made them. We fully support the efforts of the WTA and other tennis bodies in calling for meaningful assurances that Peng Shuai is safe, and for the allegations she has made to be properly investigated, without censorship,” the ITW said in a statement.
“In the meantime, we wish Peng Shuai and her family and friends all the strength they need to get through this very stressful time,” it continued.