Missing tennis pro Peng Shuai's email shared by China state media raises red flags

Peng Shuai vanished after accusing ex-Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a November 2 Weibo post that was removed 30 minutes later

                            Missing tennis pro Peng Shuai's email shared by China state media raises red flags
Shuai Peng of China has not been seen for weeks after accusing former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

An email, reportedly written by missing tennis star Peng Shuai, and released by China’s state-controlled media, has raised more questions about her safety instead of providing relief. Shuai has not been seen after she accused former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a November 2 Weibo post, which was removed 30 minutes later.

However, on Wednesday, November 17, China state-affiliated media — CGTN — shared what it claimed was an email by Shuai on Twitter. The email was reportedly addressed to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman & CEO, which read, “Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai. Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the consent 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.”


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Former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli was accused of sexually assaulting Peng Shuai in a Weibo post by the tennis star (Feng Li/Getty Images)

It added: “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me. If the WTA publishes any more news about me, please verify it with me, and release it with my consent. As a professional tennis player, I thank you all for your companionship and consideration. I hope to promote Chinese tennis with you all if I have the chance in the future. I hope Chinese tennis will become better and better. Once again, thank you for your consideration.”

But Simon cast doubt on the mail and 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. 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.”

Shuai Peng of China celebrates after defeating Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in their women's singles quarterfinal match on Day Nine of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 2, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


He added, “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”

Along with Simon, several others have expressed their shock and concern for Shuai. People also couldn’t swallow that the email was actually written by the 35-year-old. Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka tweeted along with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, “Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK.”



Chris Evert posted, “Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.” And, Billie Jean King added, “Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated.”



A Twitter user claimed, “this is fake email, no way this is written by Peng Shuai.   this is communist China to propanganda. it's very scary.  Peng's life is in great danger after this fake email. We call the international community, international tennis community to intervene this matter until Peng safe.” Another one said, “Bullshit of the day! CGTN, China's state-run channel publishes an email from Peng Shuai ‘I am neither missing nor in danger. I was resting at home, everything is fine. The information about the sexual assault is false.’ What kind of joke is this! Stand up! NOW #WhereIsPengShuai.”




“If it wasn't already clear that Peng Shuai is in great danger, it is now. If it wasn't already clear that the WTA can't continue it's relationship with China, it is now. Very disturbing turn of events.  #WhereIsPengShuai,” a concerned tweet added.

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