China tennis player Peng stayed home ‘freely’, will reappear 'soon’: Global Times editor
China tennis player Peng Shuai made the allegation against former vice premier Zhang Gaoli on Chinese social media on November 2.
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been seen or heard in public since alleging she was sexually exploited by a former vice-premier, has been staying in her own home "freely" and will make a public appearance "soon", Global Times editor-in-chief said on Saturday.
"I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai's current state. In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon.," Hu, a prominent state-media journalist, posted on Twitter.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, which is published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, was referring to the unverified photos of the tennis player.
The Twitter account @shen_shiwei, which has been labelled "China state-affiliated media" by the social network, posted four undated images of her late on Friday. “Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments,” the post said.
In one of the photos, Peng is seen smiling with a cat in her arms with stuffed animals, a trophy, a Chinese flag and certificates in the background. Another shows a selfie of Peng with a toy from the children's animation Kung Fu Panda and an image of Winnie the Pooh in the background.
The 35-year-old Peng disappeared after alleging that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, who was a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee and a lieutenant of General Secretary Xi Jinping, coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship. Both Zhang and the Chinese government have not commented on her allegation.
The former doubles world number one Peng made the allegation on Chinese social media on November 2. Peng's social media post was deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.
The US and France have expressed concern for the Chinese tennis star with the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) threatening to pull tournaments out of China and the men's ATP demanding clarity from the Chinese authorities.
The United States on Friday called for the Chinese government to provide "independent, verifiable proof" of Peng's whereabouts and safety. "We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former [People's Republic of China] senior official of sexual assault," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
French sports minister Roxana Maracineany called for transparency and said that they are following “this issue closely with the tennis authorities and the Quai d'Orsay (foreign ministry)." "Our country is deeply committed to the respect of human rights. Transparency is absolutely necessary on accusations of sexual assault such as the situation of Peng Shuai," she wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Reuters that IOC could be pushed into taking a hard line with the 2022 Beijing Olympic hosts.