WTA concerned over safety of P...


WTA concerned over safety of Peng Shuai after 'forged' email

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The WTA chairman has expressed concern over the safety of Peng Shuai following an update from Chinese state media. 

Peng has not been seen since making an allegation of sexual assault against a former Chinese vice premier.

On November 2, the world no.191 used her Weibo social media account to reveal that Zhang Gaoli forced her into a sexual encounter. Peng's post was deleted half-an-hour after it was posted.

Zhang was a prominent member of the China's Politburo Standing Committee.

Via Chinese State Media on Wednesday, someone purporting to be Peng addressed WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon to say they were in fact safe and well.

The email to Simon claimed, "the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me."

Simon responded to the mail on Wednesday evening, saying the email served only to heighten his concerns over Peng's safety.

"I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her," said the women's tour chief.

"Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government.

"The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.

"Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.

"The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”

Naomi Osaka has been among those calling for the safe return of Peng.

"Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK," the four-time Grand Slam winner said, "I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way."

Meanwhile, men's no.1 Novak Djokovic said, "When I heard the story of Peng Shuai I was shocked. I hope she is well and that we can find her as soon as possible".

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