Peng Shuai claims she ‘never said’ she was sexually assaulted

Lucy Roberts
China's Peng Shuai in action

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has given her first public interview since her disappearance and denied making sexual assault allegations towards a former politician.

The 35-year-old appeared in a video posted by Singapore media outlet, Lianhe Zaobao, denying ever calling out the former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli for forcibly having sex with her.

This was her first interview since disappearing in early November after posting her allegations on Chinese social media site Weibo but now she’s backtracked on these claims, which is worrying authorities across the world.

“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,” the former No 1 in doubles explained.

“About the Weibo post, that’s my personal issue, there are many misunderstandings, there is no distorted interpretation.”

She added: “Why would anyone monitor me?

“I have always been very free.”

This hasn’t satisfied the tennis world but it has intensified the need for an investigation into what happened to Peng when she mysteriously disappeared and how she’s being treated now.

The WTA has already suspended all it’s tournaments in China as a result of the organisation not being satisfied with the assurances they’ve been given on her wellbeing so far, despite her having been in a video conference with IOC President Thomas Bach on November 21.

In a statement, the WTA said: “It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well.

“As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.

“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”

Peng also said in the video posted on Sunday that she’d personally sent a letter to WTA chief Steve Simon last month denying that she’d made the sexual assault claims, but Simon “had a hard time believing” that she wrote it or penned it without any pressure.

China’s foreign ministry on the other hand believe that people are “maliciously hyping” the Peng situation and they should stop “politicising” it as it isn’t a “diplomatic matter.”

The WTA have already pulled out of China; the ATP are yet to make this decision but Peng has had no shortage of supporters from the tennis community, as players have been showing their concern on social media – Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Naomi Osaka are just to name a few.