CNN reports that Peng has not been seen in public since November 2, the day that the 35-year-old tennis star accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Peng’s allegations were reportedly penned in a now-deleted post on Weibo, a Chinese social media app. According to the BBC, the former Vice Premier has not yet responded to the accusations.
In the wake of her disappearance, the United Nations has called for a full investigation into her whereabouts, demanding proof of the tennis player’s safety. “According to available information, the former world doubles No. 1 hasn’t been heard from publicly since she alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted,” Liz Throssell, spokesperson of the UN Human Rights office, told reporters on November 19, per CNN. “We would stress that it is important to know where she is and know her state, know about her wellbeing.”
The BBC reports that The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was informed that that Peng is “safe and not under any physical threat,” but they have yet to make direct contact with the tennis player.
Public figures have also joined the chorus of official organizations demanding more information. Tennis star Naomi Osaka tweeted about Peng Shuai earlier this week, writing, “Censorship is never ok at any cost. I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way.”
Serena Williams also spoke out publicly about Peng, writing on November 18, “I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. 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. #whereispengshuai.”
Other world tennis players, including Novak Djokovic and Nicholas Mahut, have also publicly expressed concern about Peng’s whereabouts, with Djokovic calling the entire situation “horrifying,” per ESPN.
Steve Simon, Chief Executive of the WTA, has also demanded a full investigation into Peng’s disappearance, as well as her allegations of assault, the BBC reports. CNN adds that Simon has stated the WTA is prepared to withdraw from China and lose multi-millions if an investigation is not conducted. “We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” he explained. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”
According to ESPN, China’s Foreign Ministry has declined to comment. Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reportedly told reporters earlier this week, “I’m not aware of the situation,” adding that the topic is “not a diplomatic question.”
Still, the demands for investigations and proof continue. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that the White House is “deeply concerned” by the reports surrounding Peng. “We join in the calls for PRC (Peoples Republic of China) authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe.”
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