Peng Shuai speaks out: "I never disappeared"
Peng Shuai refuted claims she ever made a sexual assault claim and insisted he did not understand the widespread concern for her situation.
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has spoken to an international mainstream outlet for the first time since allegedly going missing after making claims of sexual assault by a senior Chinese politician.
In November, Peng posted claims on Chinese social media Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by former Chinese vice-premier, before disappearing from public view and later denying making the allegations in a video interview posted by a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper.
The situation led to widespread concern for Peng's wellbeing, initiating the #WhereIsPengShuai campaign, while the WTA went as far as suspending Chinese tennis tournaments.
Peng spoke to French outlet L'Equipe from Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are being hosted, alongside the chief of staff of the Chinese Olympic Committee Wang Kan, where she insisted there was no reason for concern.
“I don’t think I was aware of it all [global interest] because I don’t watch the news from foreign media much,” Peng said. “I can’t read in English but I heard about it. I never thought there’d be such worry, though, and I’d like to know why was that the case?”
Peng denies making sexual assault claims
The former world number 14 again denied making the sexual assault allegation in the first place.
“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” Peng said. “There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it.
“I never disappeared. Everyone could see me. I never disappeared. It’s just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages. But I’ve been always in close contact with my close friends.
“I talked to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA... But at the end of the year, the communication IT system of their website was changed and many players had difficulties logging in. But my colleagues and I always stayed in touch.
"That’s why I don’t know why the news I had disappeared spread."
The Chinese state media released photos, emails and videos of Peng late last year although many suspected they were staged, thus concerns about her wellbeing will remain despite her latest interview.
Peng also spoke about WTA president Steve Simon's decision to suspend Chinese tennis tournaments, revealing she contacted him directly after it was announced as she felt the situation was "a bit exaggerated".
“I didn’t choose anything. Like everyone, like you, I saw the statement on the official WTA website,” Peng said.
“It was very unusual for me, why would I need psychological assistance or that sort of thing? I didn’t know how I should figure it out. But if the WTA psychologists couldn’t reach me and thought that I had disappeared, I think that’s a bit exaggerated. So after reading this statement, I responded to WTA president Steve Simon myself.
“Several copies were sent, and these emails I wrote myself. This is my personal statement. The same evening, I also sent it by WeChat to my colleagues in the players’ department in order to personally confirm that I was the author of the messages sent from my work email.”