Former world number one tennis player Peng Shuai accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex in a post since deleted and as yet unverified.

Peng Shuai purportedly made the claim about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a post on the Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday.
Peng Shuai purportedly made the claim about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a post on the Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday. (AFP)

China's online censors have scrubbed out a tennis star's allegations that a powerful politician sexually assaulted her, the first time that the #MeToo movement has reached the highest echelons of the governing Communist Party.

The post appeared to have been deleted quickly on Thursday and AFP was unable to verify the authenticity of the screenshots containing the allegation, or substantiate the claims made in them.

Peng Shuai, an ex-world number one doubles player, purportedly made the claim about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a post on the Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday.

Peng alleged that Zhang, who is now in his seventies, had "forced" her into sex and they had an on-off relationship that lasted several years.

Weibo data indicated that the 35-year-old Peng did post something on Tuesday on her verified account and the post was viewed more than 100,000 times, but the contents are unknown.

There was no further word from the former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion Peng and also no public response from Zhang, a former member of China's powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and reportedly close to Premier Li Keqiang.

READ MORE: China court hears #MeToo case after more than two years

'Courting disaster'

Searches on China's tightly controlled Internet, including on Weibo and the Baidu search engine, also show no results when Peng and Zhang's names are entered together.

Peng's Weibo account was still up on Thursday, but does not show up in search results on the platform.

In the apparent screenshots of Peng's lengthy and heartfelt post accusing Zhang of pressuring her into sex, she purportedly wrote: "I was very scared.

"I initially refused and kept crying."

Peng claimed they went on to have a relationship that continued until Zhang stopped recently contacting her.

She had no evidence of the claimed relationship, she said, but added that Zhang's wife knew of it.

China saw a fledgling #MeToo movement emerge in 2018, with allegations involving powerful public figures.

But such claims against top political leaders have not been made publicly until now. 

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Source: AFP