China remained silent on Monday over growing concern over tennis star Peng Shuai, who has not been heard from since she accused a powerful politician of sexual assault – the first time the movement # MeToo hits the highest echelons of the ruling Communist Party.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on Sunday called for Peng’s allegations to be “fully investigated, fair, transparent and uncensored,” and current and former players took to social media to express their concerns. fear for the safety of former doubles at Wimbledon and Roland Garros. champion.
Asked to respond to the growing questions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “I have not heard of the issue you raised.
He added that “this is not a diplomatic issue” and made no further comment on the fate of the former doubles world number one.
Details of Peng’s reported accusations, made earlier this month that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her, remain erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for their names on major portals come back empty.
Searches for his account on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo also yielded no results, although the account is still accessible through a direct web link.
China’s National Tennis Association did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
In his statement, WTA Chairman Steve Simon said the events involving Peng were “of deep concern” and called for his allegations to be “treated with the utmost seriousness”.
“Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We speak out for justice,” the statement said.
Chris Evert, 18-time Grand Slam winner, has become the most prominent current or former tennis player to join the expressions of concern on social media that gave rise to the Twitter hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
Evert called the situation “very worrying”.
“I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be worried; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated,” Evert tweeted.
Earlier this month, Peng, 35, reportedly wrote on social media that Zhang – who is in her 60s – “forced” her into having sex and said they had an intermittent relationship of several years.
The Weibo post appears to have been deleted quickly and AFP has been unable to verify the authenticity of the screenshots containing the allegation or to substantiate the claims made therein.
China’s online censors moved quickly to erase the evidence for the reported allegations, and Peng has not heard from since.