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17 Nov, 2021 10:12

Osaka issues statement on ‘missing’ Chinese tennis star who accused top official of sex abuse

Osaka issues statement on ‘missing’ Chinese tennis star who accused top official of sex abuse

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has added her voice to the concerns surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has not been heard from publicly since accusing a former top government official of sexual assault.

Peng, a former top-ranked doubles player, made the accusations against ex-Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in a post on Chinese social media site Weibo.

The 35-year-old ace claimed that she had been “forced” into a sexual relationship with Zhang and that the pair later had an on-off consensual relationship.

She acknowledged that she had no proof to back up her allegations.  

READ MORE: ‘Very, very scary’: Female tennis ace ‘disappears’ days after accusing ex-Chinese Communist Party chief of sexual assault

The post was taken down from the site and Peng has not been seen publicly or heard from since, prompting concerns for her well-being.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said it was unable to reach Peng directly but had received confirmation that the player “is safe and not under any physical threat.”

Japanese star Osaka, 24, took to social media to air her concerns.

“I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused,” Osaka tweeted, adding the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai.

“Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I’m in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way.”

Similar comments recently came from men’s world number one Novak Djokovic, who described the situation as “shocking.”

“More so that it’s someone I have seen on the tour quite a few times in the previous years. I hope she will be found,” said the Serb at the ongoing ATP Finals.

Peng became the first Chinese player to achieve a top world ranking when she rose to world number one in the doubles in 2014.

She captured doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open the following year.

In the singles, she reached a career-high of number 14 in the world and went all the way to the US Open semi-finals in 2014.

Zhang, who is now 75, served as vice premier between 2013 and 2018, and on the Communist Politburo Standing Committee from 2012 to 2017.