The latest eyebrow-raising development in the Peng Shuai case: Now the Chinese tennis star is denying that she ever accused anyone of sexual assault. The concerning situation started last month when Peng posted on social media allegations that a former top government official forced her to have sex with him; the Weibo post quickly disappeared and then so did Peng, who was not seen or heard from for weeks. Since then, things have been weird: An email allegedly from her surfaced, photos of her at an event were made public, she had a video call with Olympic officials, and the Women's Tennis Association took action because it believes Peng is still not being allowed to speak freely. Now, Peng has given what appears to be her first foreign press interview since the social media post, the Guardian reports.
"I wanted to make this very clear: I have never claimed, or written about anyone having sexually assaulted me," she told Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language publication under the state-controlled Singapore Press Holdings Limited, on Sunday. "With regards to Weibo, it’s about my personal privacy ... There’s been a lot of misunderstanding … There [should be] no distorted interpretation." But she did not elaborate. Video of the interview was posted online, Al Jazeera reports. Peng also said she's been living freely and is not under surveillance, and that the aforementioned email was indeed sent from her. Also Sunday, someone claiming to be a friend of Peng's posted photos of her in Shanghai, and a journalist at state-owned media posted video of Peng with Chinese basketball player Yao Ming and another person.
But the WTA was not convinced. "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," it says in a statement. "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." Indeed, per Axios, the denial of the original sexual assault claim has only sparked further concern. "Today #PengShuai (involuntarily) said she 'did not accuse anyone of sexual assault' 'her weibo post had been misunderstood,'" reads one tweet from a human rights law professor. "The world has been discussing it for 47 days, nobody was able to reach her out except the Party/its puppets. Needs 47 days to say she'd been misunderstood?" (Read more Peng Shuai stories.)