Where is Peng? Tennis star, 35, goes missing after disturbing sex assault claims

Former doubles winner Peng Shuai alleged she was sexually assaulted by a Chinese politician before she went missing


                            Where is Peng? Tennis star, 35, goes missing after disturbing sex assault claims
Peng Shuai is believed to be missing after making sexual assault allegations against China's former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Chinese government is currently facing calls to investigate the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai. The former doubles winner, 35, made sexual abuse allegations against politician Zhang Gaoli who is 40 years her senior. Peng alleged Gaoli sexually assaulted her in a bedroom in his house while his wife was present. On November 14, the Women's Tennis Association Tour demanded that the Chinese government investigate these allegations against Gaoli who served as the senior Vice Premier. WTA also demanded an end to the censorship of Peng's social media activity. In the post, Peng had alleged they were in a secret on-off consensual relationship but three years ago, Gaoli violated her against her will. "I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time."

One of the biggest sporting stars to emerge from the country, Peng alleged on Chinese social media platform Weibo on November 2 that Gaoli forced her into sex. Gaoli who became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee which is China's top decision-making body remained in position till 2018. Peng's post was taken down within half an hour of it being published. In the post, she admitted to having no proof to back her claims. Screenshots of the post have surfaced on Twitter which is blocked in China leading to discussions highlighting the fact that men continue to dominate across all areas in the country. In the USA, earlier this year, Olympic coach John Geddert with ties to disgraced Larry Nassar was charged with 24 counts of human trafficking, sexual assault. In April, Yat-Sen Chang, a Ballet dancer was accused of using 'inappropriate' massages to touch girls, aged 16 to 18, in intimate areas.

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Where is Peng Shuai?

Along with Peng's post, keywords like 'tennis' are also blocked and many references of Peng have been scrubbed clean off China's internet, according to the Guardian. WTA chair and chief executive, Steve Simon, has asked for a "full, fair, and transparent" investigation by the government. "Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored," he said. New York Times received confirmation from Simon about Peng's safety but at the same time, no one from the WTA tour has been able to establish contact with her. He believes she is in Beijing but hasn't been able to confirm it. 

Peng's Weibo account is still active but her post regarding Gaoli has been taken down and the comments appear to have been disabled. Various sites across China are flashing messages that read, "Where is Peng WShuai?" and "we demand Peng Shuai's safe return." Tennis players from across the globe are voicing their concern against Peng's disappearance including World No 1. Chris Evert. "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," he said. French former doubles No 1 Nicolas Mahut said, "The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned.”

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