With stars taking lead, tennis world asks 'Where is Peng Shuai'

Mumbai, Nov 19 (IANS): The tennis world on Friday upped the ante in building up pressure on China over the disappearance of two-time former Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai, after she alleged in a social media post that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese politician, by launching a social media campaign called "#Where is Peng Shai".

The campaign material that includes some text and a photograph of the Chinese player was posted on their social media handles by top stars like Japan's Naomi Osaka, men's World No, 1 Novak Djokovic, former women's world No. 1 Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Jule Georges, Petra Kvitova, and Coco Gauff.

Djokovic also posted a statement by the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) along with a picture of the player.

The statement said, "The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) is advocating for independent evidence confirming the safety and location of WTA player, Peng Shuai.

"There is nothing more important to us than the health, safety, and welfare of the players.

"We must unite and be willing to take action unless corroborated evidence is provided to the world about Peng's wellbeing. #WhereisPengShuai," the statement said.

Serena Williams said she was devastated to know the problems Peng Shuai is facing: She wrote on her Twitter handle: "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai."

Peng Shuai, 35, a two-time former Grand Slam doubles champion, has vanished from the public eye ever since she accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, of coercing her into sex at his home in a since-deleted social media post on November 2.

Since then, Chinese censors have been diligently scrubbing her name and even the vaguest references to her allegations from the internet, the report said.

But the silencing campaign has failed to work outside of China. Over the past few days, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and some of its biggest stars, both past, and present, have spoken out in solidarity with Peng, demanding to know her whereabouts.

Concerns have only grown after the Chinese state media on Wednesday released the screenshot of an email, purportedly from Peng and sent to the WTA, walking back her allegations and claiming "everything is fine."

In an interview with CNN, WTA chief Steve Simon described the email as a "staged statement of some type".

He also declared that the association is "at a crossroads" with China, threatening to pull business out of the country if Peng's safety is not guaranteed and her allegations not properly investigated.



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