Chinese state media published photos of missing tennis star Peng Shuai wishing fans a “happy weekend”, while a video claiming to show the 35-year-old at a restaurant was also released.
The former Wimbledon and Roland Garros doubles champion has not been seen since November 3 after accusing a former senior Chinese government official of sexual abuse.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Peng claimed that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, forced her to have sex with him three years ago.
Earlier this week, Chinese state media published an email they claimed was from Peng, in which she insisted she was “safe” and that her allegations of sexual abuse weren’t there. were not true. However, the tennis world didn’t believe the email was actually sent by her.
And now, Chinese State TV reporter Shen Shiwei has tweeted photos of Peng from her WeChat account, showing her with plush toys, The Sun reports.
Captioning the photos, he said, “Peng Shuai’s WeChat Moments just posted three latest photos and said, ‘Have a nice weekend.’
“Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments.”
One image shows the smiling player with a cat in her arms, plush animals, a trophy and a Chinese flag visible in the background.
Another shows a selfie of Peng with an image of Winnie the Pooh in the background. The children’s character is often censored online in China because critics say Chinese leader Xi Jinping looks like the cartoon.
Images were also released by Chinese state media claiming that Peng was eating at a restaurant with friends on Saturday night.
In one of two videos posted to Twitter by Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the Global Times newspaper, Peng appears to walk into a restaurant wearing a coat, knitted cap and face mask.
In the other video clip, Peng sits unmasked at a table chatting with people over a meal.
Hu wrote on Twitter in English that the second video shows, “Peng Shuai was having dinner with his trainer and friends at a restaurant. The video content clearly shows that they are shot on Saturday Beijing time.
The conversation revolved around “tennis matches” and a man sitting with Peng and two other women said “tomorrow is November 20”. But one of the women quickly interrupts her to say: “It’s the 21st” or Sunday.
The cat seems to be staged. He was filmed in the evening with a cell phone, and Peng appears to be relaxed in the footage.
However, the governing body of women’s tennis, the WTA – which has been strong in repeatedly demanding proof of Peng’s well-being – is not satisfied.
“I am happy to see videos released by Chinese state media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing,” WTA chief Steve Simon said in a statement.
“While it is positive to see her, it is still unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and act on her own, without coercion or outside interference. This video alone is insufficient.
“As I have stated from the start, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the sexual assault allegation is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear on what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads. “
Federer speaks out as players voice concerns
Many tennis players have spoken out and shared social media posts with the hashtag #whereispengshuai to pressure the Chinese government to provide proof of his safety.
Roger Federer addressed the issue on Sunday, telling Sky Italia: “She is one of our tennis champions, a former world No.1, and that is clearly concerning. Hope she’s safe.
“The tennis family is tight-knit and I have always told my children that the tennis family is my second family. I’ve been on tour for 20-25 years and I love the tour, I love the people who are there, (they) are special, the players too, and she is part of it.
“I have also been in contact with (ATP Tour) President Andrea Gaudenzi the last few days, just to get some news, comments on the developing story. I just want her to be okay and to be in. security and that we hear something, hopefully soon.
British star Andy Murray tweeted “Where’s Peng Shuai?” while Serena Williams posted on social media: “I am devastated and shocked to hear the news from my peer, Peng Shuai.
“I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not remain silent.
“Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is another prominent star who has weighed in. been sexually abused, ”she wrote on social media.
“Censorship is never acceptable at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and his family are safe and healthy.
“I am in shock at the current situation and send her love and light.”
Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic is another who has voiced his concerns.
In a bold stance, Steve Simon confirmed that the WTA will reconsider hosting the women’s tennis tour in China, a courageous threat given the financial implications it could have.
With Le Soleil and AFP