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Serena Williams: 'We Must Not Stay Silent' on Peng Shuai

WTA chairman weighs pulling organization out of China
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2021 7:00 AM CST
WTA Weighs Pulling Out of China Over Peng Shuai
China's Shuai Peng plays a shot against Romania's Sorana Cirstea during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, on May 30, 2017.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

(Newser) – US tennis legend Serena Williams has joined the chorus of calls demanding to know #WhereIsPengShuai. "This must be investigated and we must not stay silent," Williams tweeted Thursday, adding she was "devastated and shocked" by the situation with the Chinese tennis player. "I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible," she added. Shuai, 35, hasn't been seen in public since she made a sexual assault allegation against 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier, on Nov. 2. "It is the first time such a claim has been made against one of China's senior political leaders," per the BBC. The Guardian calls the allegation "the most significant of China's #MeToo movement."

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The post shared with more than half a million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo was deleted by censors within half an hour and all discussion of the accusation was scrubbed from China's internet. Chinese state media has since shared an email purportedly sent by Shuai to Women's Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon, in which she is said to deny the allegation and claim she is safe, but Simon believes it is a "staged statement of some type." He tells CNN that the organization has received no response from the former world No. 1 doubles player despite reaching out "on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact."

He adds the WTA is willing to pull its business out of China "and deal with all the complications that come with it" if it doesn’t get answers. "Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business," he says. "Women need to be respected and not censored." The International Olympic Committee wasn't so direct when asked to comment Thursday. "Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature," it said, per the BBC. CNN notes international concern for Peng, a three-time Olympian, is likely to "strengthen" calls for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. (It's possible US officials will not attend.)

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