Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player, said on Sunday that she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her and that a social media post she made earlier this month had been misinterpreted. When Peng appeared to allege that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past, the global tennis community and rights groups became concerned for her safety. She was out of the public eye for nearly three weeks after that post.
“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng said in the video posted by Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore media outlet.
Peng’s comments on Sunday were the first time she addressed the issue publicly on camera. She was speaking on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing competition in Shanghai. She claimed that her post on Weibo, a social media site similar to Twitter, which was quickly removed, was a ‘private matter.’
Peng, 35, stated in the video that her Weibo post has caused “many misunderstandings.” She didn’t go into further detail. She also stated that she had been living alone at home in Beijing. She was not asked about Zhang and did not mention him in the video.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which earlier this month announced that tournaments in China would be suspended indefinitely due to concerns about Peng’s treatment and the safety of other players, has continued to call for an investigation.
“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well,” the Florida-based WTA said in a statement.
“As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern. China has not directly commented on Peng’s initial post, but said after the WTA’s move to suspend tournaments in China that it “opposes the politicization of sports.” it added.