A social media post by Peng accusing former vice premier Zhang of sexual assault, a claim that is yet to be verified, was quickly deleted and the Chinese tennis star has since disappeared from view.
Amid concerns over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, tennis officials, stars, and fans are urging a full investigation into her accusations.
Peng, 35, has not appeared in public for two weeks, since accusing former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in unverified claims.
“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” said Steve Simon, chair of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), in a statement released this week.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” he added.
After Peng made the accusation on social media on November 2, the post was quickly deleted, and the Chinese tennis star, who has won more than 20 doubles and two singles events, has disappeared from view.
Zhang, 75, on the other hand, who served as one of the seven members of the most powerful body of the Chinese Communist Party, retired in 2018.
The alleged incident dates back three years.
Fellow Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka spoke out on Twitter on Tuesday, saying "Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way,"
Top men’s player Novak Djokovic expressed “shock” over Peng being out of public view.
On Twitter, legendary women’s tennis pioneer Billie Jean King said, "Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated."
Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated. pic.twitter.com/E9z3kjOOgS— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) November 14, 2021
Simon added that Peng’s accusation “must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”
“In all societies, the behaviour she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored.''
“We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward,” the statement added.
“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.”
American tennis legend Chris Evert called the accusations “very disturbing,” saying “we should all be concerned.”
“This is serious; where is she?” she asked.
Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.🙏 https://t.co/RH0aYCDqQm— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) November 14, 2021