Peng Shuai: Doubts over ‘everything is fine’ email from ‘missing’ Chinese tennis player who made sex assault claims

The head of women’s tennis has said an email released by Chinese state media purporting to be from Peng Shuai “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts”.

The 35-year-old player – a former Wimbledon doubles champion – wrote a social media post this month accusing a former top government official of forcing her to have sex after playing tennis at his home.

Stars such as Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are among many increasingly concerned over her whereabouts and her original Weibo post has been taken down.

An email said to be from Peng was released on Wednesday by CGTN, the international arm of government-controlled state broadcaster CCTV, but many have raised doubts over its authenticity.

It says the sexual assault claim “is not true” and adds: “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine”.

Steve Simon, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said it “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts”.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he said in a statement.

“Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government.

“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.”

Mr Simon said Peng’s sexual assault claim must be investigated with “full transparency” and she should be allowed to speak “without coercion or intimidation”.

Social media users have also expressed doubts over the email and pointed out a cursor can be seen in the text, suggesting it’s a screenshot.

Peng is a former number one ranked women’s doubles player who won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2013, the French Open doubles title in 2014, and was a singles semi-finalist at the US Open in 2014.

Her post claimed Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago.

She said Zhang’s wife guarded the door during the incident.

Zhang Gaoli has not responded to her claims.

China’s entirely state-controlled media has suppressed all reporting on the case in the country.

When asked during a daily briefing earlier this week about Peng’s allegation, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: “I have not heard of the matter, and it is not a diplomatic question.”

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