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Peng Shuai Retracts Sexual Allegations in First Public Appearance in Almost 3 Weeks

Published: December 22, 2021
On Sunday, Dec. 19, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai appeared on video stating that she never made any allegations of being victimized of sexual abuse and that her former post to Weibo is a source about which "people have many misunderstandings."
On Sunday, Dec. 19, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai appeared on video stating that she never made any allegations of being victimized of sexual abuse and that her former post to Weibo is a source about which "people have many misunderstandings." (Image: screenshot Lianhe Zaobao on Twitter)

In her first public appearance after nearly three weeks Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai denied ever having alleged being sexually assaulted by a high-ranking CCP official in what appears to be an attempt to soothe concerns about her wellbeing.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, 35, made her first public appearance in nearly three weeks on Sunday, Dec. 19, during an interview aired by a Singaporean media outlet, Lianhe Zaobao at the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai.

She denied having accused anyone of sexually assaulting her stating that “people have many misunderstandings” about a now-deleted social media post on Weibo that she had made early last month.

“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng said in the video, adding that her post was a “private matter” about which “people have many misunderstandings.”

Peng’s remarks on Weibo rocked the tennis community and women’s rights groups worldwide wherein she seemed to accuse former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual abuse. She did so in an open letter posted to the platform that has now been removed. 

The initial post

CNN claimed however to have taken hold of the post and published some excerpts of it on their website. Peng and Zhang apparently were engaged in an extramarital sexual relationship over an intermittent period of at least 10 years.

However, some three years ago, after the couple broke up, Zhang forced himself upon her, Peng claimed. “Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your home to force me to have sex with you?” Peng wrote.

“That afternoon I did not agree at first and was crying all the time,” she wrote. “I was panicking and I was scared, and I agreed to it with my feelings for [Zhang] from seven years ago.”

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Former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo State Residence on April 13, 2017, outside Moscow, Russia. (Image: MIKHAIL SVETLOV/Getty Images)

At the time Peng wrote, “I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting, which person is the real me?” 

After the news broke, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) immediately suspended all its activities in China until Chinese authorities clarified the matter in all due transparency and openness. Following the post, Peng was off the radar for nearly three weeks which aroused great concerns over her safety and well-being.

READ MORE: ATP Faces Criticism For Not Acting Against Communist China Regarding Peng Shuai Issue

The letter to WTA CEO Simon

There was controversy surrounding a letter Peng wrote to WTA CEO Steve Simon on Nov. 18, according to CGTN, China’s state-run media. The letter stated she had renounced all claims of sexual assault. Peng also stated that she had been “resting” at home and said that she was safe and healthy.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 21: Shuai Peng of China in action during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Nao Hibino of Japan on day two of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020, in Melbourne, Australia. (Image: Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Peng asked Simon to take down all allegations of sexual abuse from their website as she wouldn’t endorse them. Simon claims he couldn’t believe the letter was actually Peng’s. 

Finally, when the reporter asked Peng whether she wrote the letter of her own free will, she tripped over her tongue but then stated firmly “yes, entirely!”

However, the WTA president was not fully convinced.

“I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing,” Simon wrote in a statement posted on the internet. “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference.  This video alone is insufficient.  As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.  I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”

Beijing stated that after the WTA’s decision to cancel all tournaments in China that it “opposes the politicization of sports.”

READ MORE: China’s Silence on Peng Shuai Shows Cracks in Beijing’s Propaganda Apparatus