Home Sport Tennis player Peng Shuai’s prepared comeback at a tennis tournament in Beijing

Tennis player Peng Shuai’s prepared comeback at a tennis tournament in Beijing

Tennis player Peng Shuai's prepared comeback at a tennis tournament in Beijing

The first to give notice of his public reappearance have been several journalists from the Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese Communist Party

File photo of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.AFP

On Sunday morning, in the Haidian district, north of Beijing, a youth tennis tournament was being held at the National Tennis Center, a huge complex with 37 courts that was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. One year Later it became the venue for the China Open, won in doubles in 2014 by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who was paired with Czech Andrea Hlavackova.

The names of the winners of the China Open are engraved on a mural in the esplanade at the entrance of the stadium, which is impossible to access to follow the youth tournament due to “anti-Covid measures.” This is what the security guards posted at the door say.

But the real interest that a few international agency photographers were hanging around the stadium for was because there supposedly was one of the media protagonists of this week worldwide, Peng Shuai (35 years old), who had been missing for 19 days, since he accused Zhang Gaoli (75 years old), former Chinese Vice Premier, in a letter published on social networks, of having sexually abused her.

The first to give notice of Peng’s public reappearance have been several journalists from the Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is published in English. They have published a video and several photos in which Peng is seen during the opening ceremony of the final of the tennis tournament. But the content has not been disseminated on the media’s website, but through the journalists’ Twitter accounts, a social network that is censored in China and that requires the use of a VPN to bypass the Great Firewall.

One of the people who uploaded the video to his account was the editor-in-chief of the state newspaper, Hu Xijin, who last night anda published several photos and a video of the tennis player having dinner with friends in a relaxed atmosphere in a restaurant in Beijing, saying that the images were taken on Saturday night, wanting to offer that material as proof that Peng is not under any kind of duress. Even if it was from China, few accepted that content from a dubious source it proved that Peng was really safe and well.

“It is not clear if he is free”

Responding to images from the restaurant, Steve Simon, president and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), said they were not enough to show that she was safe and free. “While it is positive to see her, it is not clear whether she is free and capable of making decisions and acting on her own, without coercion or outside interference, Simon said. “This video alone is insufficient. As I have said from the beginning, I remain concerned for Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the sexual assault charge is being censored and hidden under the rug. I’ve been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads“.

Throughout this week, as the days went by, more and more voices inside and outside the tennis world joined in to show their concern about the whereabouts of the Chinese tennis player. From the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to the UN they have come out asking the Chinese authorities for transparency about Peng’s situation. A few hours ago it was the UK Foreign Ministry who, through a statement, expressed its “extreme concern” and urged China to provide “verifiable evidence” of its safety. “Everyone should be able to speak out without fear of repercussions. All reports of sexual assault, anywhere in the world, should be investigated,” the statement requested.

The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai has been shared on Twitter by tennis figures like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic or the Spanish Paula Badosa. The last to speak was Roger Federer on Saturday. “She is one of our tennis champions, a former world number one. She is clearly worrying. I hope she is safe,” said the Swiss.

At noon on Sunday, the organizers of the Beijing tennis tournament posted on their WeChat channel, the Chinese WhatsApp, more photos and videos showing the tennis player, who went out signing balls to the children and taking group photos with them.

Peng Shuai’s trail continues to be erased from Chinese social media like Weibo, where he published his letter pointing to sexual assault by a man who has been one of the most powerful politicians in the country. China has a long history of coercing and arresting women who have reported complaints like Peng’s. Although none of them had directly pointed to a former senior government official. That is why many do not believe the different scenes of his reappearance, which seem prepared, and hope that Peng will be able to speak soon with the WTA or with the foreign press.

Reference from elmundo