Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is speaking out again about the sexual assault accusation she made against a high-profile government official — but now, she’s saying she never actually delivered the allegation at all.
The women’s professional tennis star opened up in a new video statement published on Sunday, claiming that she never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and that the firestorm last month over her quickly-deleted social media post about the allegations was merely a misunderstanding.
Speaking in a video posted by Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore-based media outlet, the professional athlete opened up about the weeks-long controversy regarding her alleged rape by a Chinese government official and her whereabouts after the initial allegations. The video reveal took place while Peng made a public appearance on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai over the weekend.
Calling the initial accusatory post she made on the Chinese social media network Weibo a “private matter,” the 35-year-old international tennis star explained that “people have many misunderstandings” regarding her claim.
Backtracking on the allegations she’d initially levied against former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli, Peng said in the video clip:
“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point.”
That would seem to be in direct contradiction to Peng’s literal words in that initial Weibo post. Back on November 2, the tennis sensation published a 1,600-word post accusing Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into having sex, with one damaging line specifically alleging:
“Why did you come back and seek me out, take me to your home, and force me to have sex with you.”
The post was quickly removed from the social network, though not before it went viral, attracting considerable worldwide attention. Her account currently remains “under restrictions,” according to Reuters, with not a single post displaying that’s been made more recently than early September.
Obviously, those concerned for Peng’s well-being are still skeptical. The Women’s Tennis Association, which earlier this month decided to suspend its tournaments in China due to concerns over the treatment of Peng and other players, called for an investigation:
“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well. 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. 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.”
And users on Twitter, where Peng’s name went viral after the video reveal, revealed that they too are skeptical of this whole situation:
“Literally nobody believes this. Nobody.”
“Oh they definitely got her. So sad to see it happen in real time.”
“So, the Chinese government got to her… She went into hiding for nothing? Terrible. I feel bad for her.”
“I’m sad for her and everyone suffering under this regime”
“To me this seems like the CCP put her under so much pressure, she had to come out and ‘make it right’ publicly.”
“This breaks my heart. I hope she’s ok.”
“Does China think there is a single person globally who doesn’t suspect they realized they couldn’t silently take care of her so they released her with a threat?”
It’s definitely very unsettling, to say the least…
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