China Publishes Bizarre ‘Email’ from Tennis Player Missing Since Accusing Official of Rape

Shuai Peng of China hits a backhand return against Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia during the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 26, 2011 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) published a statement on Tuesday allegedly written by Chinese professional tennis player Peng Shuai — who recently disappeared from the public eye after accusing former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault — in which Peng claims she is “not missing” but simply “resting at home.”

CGTN claimed on November 17 it obtained a copy of an email allegedly sent by Peng to Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

CGTN published what appeared to be a screenshot of the “email” that astute internet observers noted included a text editor cursor, leading many to suspect that government officials drafted the letter, or were at least in the room when “Peng” wrote it.

“Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai,” the message begins.

“Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent,” the statement reads.

“The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me,” the email continues.

“If the WTA publishes any more news about me, please verify it with me, and release it with my consent,” the letter states.

The message concludes with the author praising “Chinese tennis” and expressing a desire “to promote” Sino-excellence in the sport:

As a professional tennis player, I thank you all for your companionship and consideration.

I hope to promote Chinese tennis with you all if I have the chance in the future. I hope Chinese tennis will become better and better.

Once again, thank you for your consideration.

Zhang Gaoli attends a welcoming ceremony for Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev outside the Great Hall of the People on November 1, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Zhang Gaoli attends a welcoming ceremony for Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev outside the Great Hall of the People on November 1, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Peng, 35, is a professional women’s tennis player who rose to fame in her home country after becoming the first Chinese tennis player to achieve a world number one ranking in 2014. She earned the top rank for her performance as a doubles player. Peng, who has won doubles championships at both Wimbledon and the French Open, accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of rape in a statement posted to her personal Weibo account on November 2. Weibo is China’s version of Twitter and is heavily censored by the Chinese government.

“Peng alleged that Zhang, who is now in his seventies, had ‘forced’ her into sex and they had an on-off relationship that lasted several years,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported of the athlete’s statement.

By November 4, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censors appeared to have scrubbed Peng’s statement from the internet, though data from Weibo “indicated that the post on Peng’s verified account was viewed more than 100,000 times” before it was removed, according to AFP.

“There has been no further word from Peng and also no public response from Zhang, a former member of China’s powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and reportedly close to Premier Li Keqiang,” the news agency noted.

China’s Politburo Standing Committee is comprised of the CCP’s top leaders. Li Keqiang is the premier of China’s State Council, which is the nation’s chief administrative authority. Zhang served as State Council Vice Premier from 2013 to 2018 and was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee from 2012 to 2017.

The WTA reacted to Peng’s sexual assault allegations against Zhang in a statement issued November 14. The women’s tennis organizing body said it hoped the allegations would be “investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.”


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