U.N. Calls For Proof Of Missing Tennis Star Peng Shuai’s Safety
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U.N. Calls For Proof Of Missing Tennis Star Peng Shuai’s Safety

Topline

The United Nations has added to the chorus of calls from the tennis world for proof of the  safety of missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and an investigation into her allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a powerful government official.

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a victory during the 2017 Wuhan Open.

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Key Facts

Proof of Peng’s “whereabouts and well-being” are important for the world to see, the UN human rights office’s spokesperson, Liz Throssell, told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

The UN is urging authorities to launch a transparent investigation into Peng’s allegations, Throssell added, saying it is “really important to ensure accountability, to ensure justice for the victims.”

The Women’s Tennis Association is willing to pull its events out of China—and risk losing as much as $1 billion—if the country does not probe Peng’s allegations and provide proof of her well-being, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon told CNN late Thursday, saying Peng’s situation is “bigger than the business.”

On Friday, China again denied being aware of any controversy surrounding Peng, her allegations or her disappearance, with foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian telling reporters that the case is “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation,” according to the Associated Press.

Crucial Quote

“There’s too many times in our world . . . that we let business, politics [and] money dictate what’s right and what’s wrong,” Simon said. “When you have a young person that has the fortitude to step up and make these allegations, knowing full well what the results of that are going to be, [we must] support that and demand justice.”

Tangent

Some of the tennis world’s biggest stars have spoken out in support of Peng. Novak Djokovic, the top men’s player, said he was “shocked” to learn Peng was missing, saying he hopes she will be found and calling her disappearance “terrible.” Naomi Osaka said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday that she hopes Peng and her family are safe, adding, “Censorship is never okay at any cost.” Serena Williams urged her Twitter followers on Thursday to “not stay silent” about Peng’s disappearance. 

Key Background

Peng, 35, has not been seen in public since earlier this month when she accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, of sexually assaulting her at his home several years ago on her verified Weibo account, China’s answer to Twitter. She also alleged the two carried on an extramarital affair for years, which is banned for China’s high-ranking government officials. The post was later taken down, but screenshots went viral online. Peng isn’t the first high-profile Chinese citizen to disappear amid tension with the government—actress Fan BingBing went silent for four months in 2018 as she was under house arrest during a probe into her taxes. Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma stayed under the radar for three months after he said China’s banks have a “pawnshop mentality.” Though he reappeared in January, he has since kept a low profile.

Further Reading

Tennis Star Serena Williams ‘Devastated And Shocked’ About Missing Chinese Player Peng Shuai (Forbes)

Osaka Becomes Latest Tennis Star Speaking Out About Peng Shuai’s Disappearance After Sexual Assault Allegations (Forbes)

Vanished Chinese Stars: Tennis Player Peng Shui Is Latest Big Name To Disappear After Angering Government (Forbes)

WTA Chief Doubts Authenticity Of Email It Received Purported To Be From Missing Tennis Star Peng Shuai (Forbes)

Tennis Star Peng Shuai Disappears After Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Ex-Chinese Official—And Top Stars Begin Speaking Out (Forbes)

Tennis Star’s Sexual Assault Claim Against Ex-Top Chinese Official Triggers Online Censors (Forbes)

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