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Serena Williams joins call to find China’s Peng Shuai

Serena Williams joins call to find China’s Peng Shuai

Serena Williams is joining the calls to locate missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Williams spoke out on Twitter on Thursday, more than two weeks after Peng accused a former top Chinese government official of sexual assault. Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since.

“I am devastated and shocked to hear the news of my peer, Peng Shuai,” Williams wrote. “I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Williams is the latest in the tennis world to speak out about Peng’s safety, joining Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, among others.

Peng still missing after allegations

Peng accused retired vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a post on Weibo — a Chinese social media outlet — on Nov. 2. She said that Zhang, who is in his 70s, pressured her into having sex with him at his home in 2018.

Peng’s post has been deleted, and her Weibo account was disabled. She has not been seen or heard from publicly since then — which has prompted plenty in the tennis world to call for an investigation.

China’s state-owned media organization, CGTN, posted what they said was an email from Peng to WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon on Wednesday. In that email, Peng said she is simply safe and “resting at home.” She also recanted her accusations of sexual assault, though it included several suspicious phrases.

Simon said in a statement on Wednesday that he has “a hard time believing” that Peng wrote that email. He also said that the Chinese Tennis Association told him that Peng is safe in Beijing, but that he’s been unable to get in contact with her at all.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.

“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”

Peng Shuai of China at the 2020 Australian Open

Peng Shuai of China serves at the 2020 Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia. (Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty)