Pictures of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts are unknown, have surfaced

Four pictures and many questions: A smiling Peng Shuai appeared on social media at a time when international pressure is mounting on China to provide information about the whereabouts of Chinese tennis players.

Peng Shuai, a 35-year-old former world number one in doubles and a star of his country, has not spoken publicly since he accused Zhang Gaoli, a powerful former leader of the Chinese Communist Party, his 40-year-old senior, of forcing him. Sexuality

In a message posted on the tennis player’s official Weibo account (equivalent to China’s Twitter) in early November, she described a forced relationship with a married man named Zhang. The message was circulated for a short time, until it was censored on the Internet in China.

In the message, Peng Shuai has been blamed but whose veracity could not be verified by AFP, the tennis player reported that when he retired from politics in 2018, Zhang Gaoli resumed contact with him, forcing him to have sex. From this statement, the fate of Peng Shuai raises many questions.

“For the past few days, he has been at home in complete freedom and did not want to be bothered,” Hu Jizin, the influential editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a clear nationalist Chinese newspaper, said on Saturday.

Peng Shuai “will appear in public soon,” he wrote in English on Twitter, a blocked social network in China, without commenting on the case on Weibo.

“I am sure that false assumptions (about the fate of Peng Shuai) will eventually be proved false,” he wrote on Friday (19).

Several countries, including the United States and France, said yesterday that they were “concerned” about the fate of tennis players. The UN, in turn, wanted proof that he was safe and sound, when the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai (#WhereEstaPengShuai, Portuguese) spread like powder on social media.

“Good weekend”

Meanwhile, four pictures of the tennis player were posted on @shen_shiwei’s Twitter account on Friday afternoon, which has been identified by social networks as “go to the Chinese state”.

AFP could not immediately say when the photos were taken.

In one photo, the young woman is seen smiling with a cat in her arms, which seems to be her home. Another is a “selfie” of Peng Shuai with a doll of kung fu panda character.

The Twitter account indicated in English that the tennis player had personally posted pictures on a social network to wish his acquaintances a “happy weekend”.

There are photos with the reference “Today” in Mandarin to indicate the date of publication.

Twitter is a blocked network in China and can only be accessed by people with a VPN-type connection. In recent years, many Chinese diplomats and official media outlets have created accounts to protect the Chinese perspective.

“Staging”

Two weeks after Peng Shuai’s remarks, Chinese public television CGTN showed a screenshot of an email he wrote on Wednesday.

The network, which broadcasts in English and targets foreign audiences, said the tennis player himself referred her to WTA managers, the agency responsible for the professional women’s tennis circuit.

On CNN, however, its president, Steve Simon, questioned the veracity of the email, in which Shuai Zhang called his allegations against Gaoli “false.”

“I do not believe it is true,” Simon said of the e-mail.

“Whether he was forced to write it, if anyone wrote it to him, we do not know. […] But unless we talk to her, we will not calm down, “said a WTA official.

Although he has expressed his “concern” about the disappearance of the tennis player, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes Commission’s response to this is in stark contrast to the response of several individuals and other sports bodies to support “prudent diplomacy”. .

“With the world community of athletes”, the body representing athletes at the IOC is “very concerned about the situation of the three-time Olympic peng shui”, tweeted former Finnish hockey player Emma Terho, who chairs the commission, on Saturday afternoon. .

“We support the adoption of prudent diplomacy and hope that this will lead to the release of information about Peng Shuai’s whereabouts and ensure that he is safe and sound,” he added.

In a statement, the commission added that it hopes to “find a way to reach a direct agreement between it and its affiliates”.

The Peng Shuai case is under censorship in China, and people around the tennis player have not commented on it.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, who was one of China’s seven most powerful political leaders from 2013 to 2018, has not yet publicly responded to the allegations.

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