Peng Shuai: World seeks answers as Chinese tennis player goes 'missing'; Here's is what we know so far

Here's a timeline of events and what we know so far:

Where is Peng Shuai?

China's tennis player Peng Shuai went missing after she alleged that a powerful Chinese politician sexually assaulted her. 

International concerns have been mounter over the whereabouts of Shuai. From Naomi Osaka to Serena Williams to Novak Djokovic, players have raised concerns and urged the tennis world to unite. 

A letter emerged, then photos and then a video by Chinese media to assure that the player is safe, but the concerns grew further. 

Here's a timeline of events and what we know so far:


November 2 - Peng Shuai's allegations

Former world No.1 tennis doubles player Peng Shuai accused a former Chinese vice premier of forcing her into sex several years ago in a social media post. The post was later deleted around half an hour after it was published. 

According to a screenshot of her verified Weibo account, Peng said that Zhang Gaoli, who became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - China's top decision-making body - coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship. 


November 14 - WTA calls for probe

The WTA Tour called on the Chinese government to investigate allegations of sexual assault made by Peng Shuai. The women's tennis governing body also demanded an end to censorship of the former top-ranked doubles player. 

Women's Tennis Organization Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement, "Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship."


November 16 - Osaka raises concerns

Japanese star Naomi Osaka has raised concerns over the whereabouts of Peng Shuai. The four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka took to her official Twitter handle and asked "Where Is Peng Shuai"? 

Osaka wrote, "I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused. Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."


November 17 - letter purportedly from Shuai emerges

A letter, purportedly from Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai claimed that she is not missing or unsafe as she is just resting at home and everything is fine. 

The letter was posted on the Twitter handle of the Chinese state-affiliated media outlet CGTN, saying it was an email Peng had sent to WTA Chairman Steve Simon. 

A part of the letter read: "Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent".


November 18 - China's foreign ministry declines to comment

China's foreign ministry declined to comment on tennis star Peng Shuai's whereabouts and an alleged email she sent to the head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

"This is not a foreign affairs matter. And I am not aware of the relevant situation you mentioned," ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told media during a daily news conference in Beijing. 


November 18 - ITF calls for investigation

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is committed to player safety and supports an investigation into the whereabouts of Chinese player Peng Shuai, the governing body said. 

"Player safety is always our top priority and we support a full and transparent investigation into this matter," the ITF said in a statement to Reuters.


November 19 - UN requests for information

The UN office for human rights requested information regarding Peng Shuai's whereabouts and calls for an investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.

"So, really, we would stress that this is important to know that, where she is and you know, her stage, know about her well being and as I said, we think it would be important that there is an investigation into her allegations of sexual assault which she made against the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli", spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for human rights, Liz Throssell, told a news briefing in Geneva.


November 19 - 'Player's safety bigger than the business'

The Women's Tennis Association is prepared to pull its tournaments out of China if they are not satisfied with the response to the sexual assault allegation made by former doubles world number one Peng Shuai, chief executive Steve Simon has told US media.

"We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it. Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored," Simon told CNN in an interview. 


November 19 - New photos of 'missing' player

Unverified photos of Peng Shuai have been posted online by a state-affiliated journalist. The Twitter account @shen_shiwei, labelled "Chinese state-affiliated media" by the social network, posted four undated images. 

In a tweet, @shen_shiwei said the pictures were shared on Peng's WeChat Moments, a function often restricted to friends, to wish her followers a "good weekend". 

One photo shows the smiling player with a cat in her arms, with stuffed animals, a trophy, a Chinese flag and certificates visible in the background. Another shot shows a selfie of Peng with a toy from the children's animation Kung Fu Panda, with an image of Winnie the Pooh in the background.


November 20 - Video of Shuai with her coach

The editor-in-chief of the Chinese state media posted two short video clips on Twitter, claiming it to be of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. 

The video claims that Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant.

Hu Xijin, who is the editor of the Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times, share the video. In the caption, he wrote, "I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time."


Tennis world united

Serena Williams voiced concern for fellow tennis player Peng Shuai. "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai," 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams wrote in a Twitter post. "I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible."

On the other hand, Novak Djokovic said tennis must stand together over the apparent disappearance of Shuai and described the ongoing situation as horrific.

Apart from Osaka, Serena, Djokovic, other players such as Petra Kvitova, Alize Cornet, Simona Halep, Coco Gauff, also raised concerns. 


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