World tennis star Novak Djokovic expressed concern over the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after accusing a retired Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official of sexually abusing her, Sky Sport reported.
Serbian tennis player Djokovic, the world No. 1, described as “shocking” the disappearance of his colleague, who since reporting the abuse on Nov. 2 on Weibo, a Chinese social network, was no longer seen or heard from, the account has been deleted, and comments have been disabled.
China’s totalitarian regime is known for exercising strict control over what information can be accessed online, so topics they consider ‘sensitive’ around their top leaders are strictly monitored.
“I don’t have much information about it, I found out about a week ago and honestly, it’s shocking that she’s missing. More so, it’s someone I’ve seen on the tour in previous years quite a few times,” Djokovic said after winning his first ATP Finals match.
“There’s not much more to say. I hope they find her, that she’s OK,” he said, adding, “it’s terrible, I can only imagine how her family feels.”
The Chinese tennis player, who was a former number one ranked doubles player and one of China’s biggest sports stars, revealed that a decade ago, she was forced to have sex with former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who was then a senior member of the Politburo.
Andrea Gaudenzi, president of the ATP, said he was very concerned about the uncertainty over Peng’s whereabouts and safety, despite assurances from the Chinese Tennis Association that the tennis player is “safe and not under physical threat,” as reported by Steve Simon, executive director of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), but also added that no one was yet able to speak to her.
The WTA, through its president had demanded through a statement on Sunday that the issue be investigated in a transparent and uncensored manner.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness. In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored,” wrote Steve Simon.
“If at the end of the day, we don’t see appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what results,” Simon told the New York Times on Sunday.
As reported by News 24, fans and tennis figures expressed their concern on the networks using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai ( #WhereIsPengShuai).
One of them was 18-time Grand Slam winner Chris Evert, who said, “Yes, these accusations are very 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 would be appreciated,” the tweet read.
French player Alize Cornet wrote, “let’s not be quiet.” While Liam Broady, British Davis Cup player, said Sunday, “I can’t believe that this is even happening in the 21st century.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Mahut, French former number one doubles player, said: “The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned.”