Pen Shuai’s whereabouts: WTA tour returns to China, tennis star mystery after assault complaint

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It’s a question that’s been asked countless times over the past 12 months – and one that’s coming back to the headlines as the world marks a dark milestone in the chapter.

Exactly 365 days after the tennis star first posted on social media accusing retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her, her whereabouts and well-being remain a mystery.

Now the WTA Tour has floated the idea of ​​returning to hold tournaments in China. The WTA Tour has expressed concerns for Peng’s safety and has suspended all scheduled events in the country.

Shuai has not been seen publicly since February when she paraded at Winter Olympics events In Beijing.

The 36-year-old led a rare interview and photo op at the Games, where she tried to downplay her earlier sexual assault allegation as a ‘huge misunderstanding’.

Photos show Chinese Olympic Committee Chief of Staff Wang Kan sitting near Shuai during the interview published by French newspaper L’Equipe. There was speculation that the presence of Chinese officials showed that the interview was not genuine and that the medium had been used for Chinese “propaganda”.

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In truth, only a handful of Westerners really know where it is – and those who do refuse to say so publicly.

The IOC was the first sports body to get in touch with Peng ahead of this year’s Winter Olympics.

The IOC said it “has been in regular contact with Peng” since those controversial Games, The sunreports.

But apart from a small group of Olympic officials, its exact location remains a mystery.

They added: “A visit to Europe continues to be discussed, as agreed in Beijing. The timing of the scheduled visit will depend on the Covid situation in China. »

Elsewhere, ITF President David Haggerty surprised everyone in August by revealing he was speaking with Peng via email and wanted to meet her “face to face”.

The ITF says they have been “reassured by Peng Shuai that she is fine” and will continue to “seek assurances of her continued safety” – and yet, when pressed for more information, the tennis bosses stubbornly refuse to give details of his location.

Obviously, senior tennis administration officials are not talking to each other, as it is understood that the WTA – the governing body of women’s tennis – has not had any meaningful contact with Peng since the start of this episode. a year ago.

The WTA has decided to stop hosting future events in China and this uncompromising stance has been universally applauded.

Yet Chairman and CEO Steve Simon has opened the doors to returning once Covid restrictions ease. Shenzhen, China was supposed to hold the WTA Finals until the end of 2030 before the pandemic changed those plans.

“We’re hoping that’s where we’re going to be,” he told The Associated Press.

“But, obviously, we have problems to solve.

“We have to solve Peng. We’re confident she’s safe and we know she’s in Beijing, which is great. We want that. But we have not received the assurances we want regarding the investigation we have requested.

“What is the real story? That’s all we asked for. What is the story? She obviously had a lot of courage to present what she said. The principles involved are fully in line with what we stand for as an organization. And what we’ve asked for is an investigation to understand what happened, what didn’t happen, and then address it appropriately.

The WTA has been criticized by tennis commentators for even considering returning to China.

“A year ago today, Peng Shuai took to social media with an account of sexual assault. The WTA demanded ‘a full and fair investigation.’ This never happened,” he said. wrote American tennis commentator Jon Wertheim on Twitter.

“The health and safety of the player remains a source of concern. And now the WTA returns to China in 2023. What a moral failure.

Former player Patrick McEnroe wrote: “A year ago today, Peng Shuai announced that she had been sexually assaulted.

“She was last seen publicly in February of this year.”

As always, it seems money always talks in world sport and Wimbledon, it should be noted, have no qualms about working with a Chinese telecom sponsor despite Peng being on their doubles honor roll. .

Where is Peng Shuai? The sad truth is that we just don’t know.

— with Rob Maul, The sun


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