On Nov. 2, Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player who was number one in the world doubles ranking in 2014, denounced Zhang Gaoli, a former vice-president of her country, for sexual abuse through her Weibo account (the Chinese Facebook). A few minutes later, the post was deleted and the athlete has been missing since.
To date, Shuai has been missing for more than 10 days, and several of her fellow athletes have begun calling for a serious investigation into her case.
"These allegations are very disturbing. I have known Peng since she was 14 years old, we should all be concerned, it is serious, where is she, is she safe? Any information would be welcome," American Chris Evert, a former world No. 1, wrote on Twitter.
Under the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, the tennis community has begun to show its concern for the 35-year-old player who was doubles champion at Wimbledon in 2013 and at the French Open a year later.
Steve Simon, head of the WTA, the governing body of women's tennis, called on Sunday, Nov. 14 for Shuai's allegations accusing former vice president Gaoli of forcing her to have sex, "to be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship."
"In all societies, the behavior she alleges took place should be investigated, not tolerated or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward," the WTA statement read.
After Peng's disappearance, Chinese officials did not acknowledge the allegations or show any intention of conducting an investigation, so there is great fear for the tennis player's safety.
However, Simon has stated that the woman is doing well.
"We have received confirmation from several sources, including the China Tennis Association, that she is safe and not under any physical threat," he told the New York Times.
Shuai, who last competed in February 2020 in Doha before the start of the pandemic, is one of the few athletes in her country who is not part of the state sports system, whereby they are trained by local coaches and then return part of their earnings to the state, including money they receive from sponsorships.