This file photo taken on January 21, 2020 shows China's Peng Shuai hitting a return against Japan's Nao Hibino during a match of the Australian Open. Photograph:( AFP )
WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon said he had a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email
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. Instead of clearing the air, the letter has raised more concerns as even the head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) on Wednesday (November 17) voiced doubt over the letter he received as an email.
One of China's biggest sports stars went missing after she alleged that a powerful Chinese politician sexually assaulted her. Shuai had claimed in a social media (Weibo) post on November 2 that China's former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli had "forced" her into sex during a long-term on-off relationship. Ever since she made the claims, she has not been seen or heard from publicly. Even her post was deleted about half an hour later.
In the aftermath, a letter has been 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"
"The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor I am unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me," it added.
Read the letter here:
Image: CGTN tweets an email allegedly sent by Peng Shuai to Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO Steve Simon in this screengrab obtained via social media on November 18, 2021.
Statement by Steve Simon, WTA Chairman & CEO:— wta (@WTA) November 17, 2021
The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts. Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source.
In reply to the letter, Simon said, "The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai 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."
Recently, Japanese star Naomi Osaka voiced concerns over the whereabouts of Shuai. The four-time Grand Slam winner took to her official Twitter handle and asked "Where Is Peng Shuai"? Not just Osaka, Novak Djokovic and several other players have also spoken in the recent days saying they were deeply worried.
Previously, WTA had also called for Peng's claims to be "investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship".