Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Still Missing After Sexual Assault Accusation

Shuai hasn't been heard from publicly since she accused the former vice premier of China of abuse in early November

Peng Shuai of China in action at the 2019 China Open
Peng Shuai of China in action at the 2019 China Open.
Fred Lee/Getty

Concern is growing for a Chinese women’s tennis player who has seemingly vanished since making sexual assault allegations against a former vice premier of China online earlier this month.

Peng Shuai has not been heard from since posting earlier this month on her Weibo (a Chinese social media platform) account that Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her shortly after he stepped down as one of China’s top leaders in 2017.

The November 2 post, which also said Shuai had engaged in consensual sex with Gaoli at times during an alleged intermittent relationship, was deleted about a half an hour after it was published and Weibo searches for Shuai’s name and the term “tennis” were temporarily disabled.

Shuai, who was once ranked No. 1 in doubles and as high as No. 14 in singles but has not competed on the WTA Tour since February 2020, has not made any public statements since the post was removed.

In a statement posted online, WTA Tour chief executive Steve Simon called for a “full, fair and transparent” investigation into the matter and an end to Chinese censorship.

Speaking with The New York Times, Simon said he had not spoken with Shuai but had received confirmation from several sources that the 35-year-old player is in Beijing and is “safe and not under any physical threat.” He also said the Tour, which has a deal to host 11 tournaments in China, would weigh the possibility of no longer doing business in the communist nation if there were not “appropriate results.”

“We want to make sure we’re moving forward to a place where a full and transparent investigation is conducted. Anything else, I think, is an affront to not only our players but to all women,” Simon said. “If at the end of the day, we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to. I’m not sitting here and thinking that I’m going to solve the world’s problems by any means. But what I am here to do is that we have an athlete that’s part of the WTA family that’s come out with serious allegations. We’re going to be 100% supportive of that, and we want to see a full investigation on this. If that isn’t the case and if they are not cooperative, then we’ll have to make some decisions, and we’re prepared to do so, and that’s the best we can do. But we’re not going to back off this position. It’s the right place to be.”

Gaoli, 75, retired in 2018 and has largely disappeared from public life, per Yahoo.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!