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Peng Shuai Reappears At Youth Tennis Event

Chinese tennis star vanished after accusing Communist official of sexual assault
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 21, 2021 5:45 AM CST
Missing Chinese Tennis Star Seen in Event Footage
China's Peng Shuai reacts during her first round singles match against Japan's Nao Hibino at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne   (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

(Newser) – Missing tennis star Peng Shuai reappeared in public Sunday at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizer, as the ruling Communist Party tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng after she accused a senior leader of sexual assault. The post by the China Open on the Weibo social media service made no mention of Peng's disappearance or her accusation. Peng was shown standing beside a court, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children, per the AP. The appearance followed an announcement by the editor of a party newspaper Saturday on Twitter, which can't be seen by most internet users in China, that the three-time Olympian would “show up in public” soon.

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The ruling party appears to be trying to defuse alarm about Peng without acknowledging her disappearance after the former Wimbledon and Paris Open champion this month accused Zhang Gaoli, a member of the party's ruling Standing Committee until 2018, of forcing her to have sex. Peng's disappearance and the government's silence in response to appeals for information prompted calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, a prestige event for the Communist Party. The women's professional tour threatened to pull events out of China unless the safety of the former No. 1 doubles player was assured. Discussion of Peng's accusation has been deleted from websites in China. A government spokesman on Friday denied knowing about the outcry.

Peng adds to a growing number of Chinese businesspeople, activists and ordinary people who have disappeared in recent years after criticizing party figures or in crackdowns on corruption or pro-democracy and labor rights campaigns. Tennis stars and the Women's Tennis Association have been unusually vocal in demanding information about Peng. Other companies and sports groups are reluctant to confront Beijing for fear of losing access to the Chinese market or other retaliation. The ruling party has given no indication whether it is investigating Peng's accusation against Gao, 75, who left the Standing Committee in 2018 and has largely disappeared from public life. (Read more Peng Shuai stories.)

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