Peng Shuai missing: China ignores claims as #MeToo moment poses new test for Beijing

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The Chinese government has claimed it is “not aware” of the controversy surrounding Peng Shuai amid growing internaional concern over the welfare of the tennis star.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday said the matter was “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation”.

Earlier, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) threatened to pull its tournaments from China in protest at the treatment of Peng, who has not been seen in public since accusing a former Communist Party politician of coercing her into sex.

The former doubles world number one disappeared shortly after making the allegations against ex-vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a message posted to Twitter on 2 November.

Steve Simon, WTA chief executive, told various US media outlets on Thursday the tour would consider pulling tournaments worth tens of millions of dollars out of China.

"We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it," he told CNN in an interview. "Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored.”

Key Points

  • China claims it’s not aware of controversary surrounding case

  • WTA threatens to pull tournaments in China

  • Player releases statement retracting allegation, but observers fear words were not her

  • Peng disappears after accusing former vice premier of sex assault

Fears grow as tennis star’s #MeToo posts blocked on Chinese social media

13:36 , Matt Mathers

Fears are growing over the welfare of tennis player Peng Shuai after Chinese state media published a letter attributed to her and social media posts about her sexual assault allegations were reportedly blocked.

My colleague Maroosha Muzaffar has more below:

Peng Shuai: Fears grow as #MeToo posts blocked on Chinese social media

Full report: Who is the missing tennis player and why has she disappeared?

13:43 , Matt Mathers

Peng is a 35-year-old tennis player who specialises in doubles. She is prominent in China, having reached as high as world No14 in the singles rankings and made the US Open singles semi-finals in 2014.

She has won two doubles Grand Slam titles, the 2013 Wimbledon and 2014 French Open, playing alongside Taiwanese partner Hsieh Su-wei.

More details below:

What happened to Peng Shuai?

China denies knowledge of missing tennis player as state media lashes out at WTA

13:52 , Matt Mathers

The Chinese government has claimed it is “not aware” of the controversy around Peng Shuai amid growing international concern over the welfare of the tennis star.

My colleague Alisha Rahaman Sarkar has the full report:

China denies knowledge of missing tennis player Peng Shuai

ICYMI: Outcry over missing Peng Shuai’s #MeToo claim poses new challenge for China

14:18 , Matt Mathers

Beijing is seeking to control the narrative around the tennis star as concern grows globally for her welfare, writes Ahmed Aboudouh.

Read Ahmed’s full piece here:

Outcry over missing Peng Shuai’s #MeToo claim challenges China

UN calls for investigation

14:53 , Matt Mathers

Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office in Geneva, said Friday it was calling for "an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault."

"And I think we would say that that should be the case into all allegations of sexual assault. It is really important to ensure accountability, to ensure justice for the victims," she said.

The International Olympic Committee declined to comment Friday, saying in an emailed statement: "Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature. This explains why the IOC will not comment any further at this stage."

What drives high profile disappearances in China?

15:03 , Matt Mathers

The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in China following her accusations of sexual assault against a former top Communist Party official has shined a spotlight on similar cases involving political dissidents, entertainers, business leaders and others who ran afoul of the authorities

Full report:

What drives high-profile disappearances in China?

Peng known for her grit on the court

15:30 , Matt Mathers

The tennis player who disappeared after accusing a former top Chinese official of sexually assaulting her is known for her grit and determination.

Full report:

Tennis trailblazer: Peng known for her grit on the court

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