China’s Peng Shuai serves the ball during a training session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2019.
William West | AFP | Getty Images
A Chinese State Television official posted photos of missing tennis star Peng Shuai online to allay concerns about her disappearance after accusing a senior leader of sexual assault.
The photos were posted on Friday on Twitter, which most internet users in China cannot see. State television operator Shen Shiwei wrote that they were on Peng’s account with the WeChat news service with the comment “Happy Weekend”.
These photos were published by Chinese state media and have not been verified by CNBC or NBC News.
The ruling Communist Party is facing increasing appeals from tennis stars and the professional tour of the sport to prove that Peng, a three-time Olympian and former No. 1 female doubles player, is safe and lets her speak freely.
Meanwhile, the editor of a party-run newspaper said that Peng would “appear in public” soon.
The controversy is politically sensitive as the Chinese capital prepares for the Winter Olympics in February. A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied on Friday that he knew of the outcry over Peng’s disappearance.
Peng, 35, has not been seen in public since posting a statement on social media this month accusing Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the party’s standing committee, ruling inner power, despite repeated attempts at her Refusal to force you to have sex.
Shen works for CGTN, the English-speaking branch of China Central Television aimed at overseas viewers. His Twitter post came after CGTN released a statement this week, allegedly from Peng, in which allegations against Zhang were withdrawn.
The editor of the Global Times, an English-language Communist Party newspaper, said on Twitter that he had confirmed from unknown sources that the photos “are in fact the current state of Peng Shuai.”
“She has been staying freely in her own home for the past few days and did not want to be disturbed,” wrote editor Hu Xijin. “She will be showing herself in public and will be participating in some activities soon.”
The photos showed Peng with a gray cat and a panda figure in a seemingly private house with stuffed animals lined up behind her. There was no indication of when the photos were taken.
Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, responded on Saturday to a video allegedly showing the tennis player in a restaurant.
“I am delighted to see the videos published by Chinese state media that appear to show Peng Shuai in a restaurant in Beijing. While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action. ”Alone, without coercion or outside interference. This video alone is not enough, “said Simon.
“As I have said from the start, I remain concerned for the health and safety of Peng Shuai and that allegations of sexual assault get censored and swept under the carpet at an intersection.”
Simon has threatened to pull the WTA events out of China. That means nearly a dozen over the next year, including the WTA finals.
–CNBC contributed to this report.