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'A lot of misunderstanding': tennis star Peng Shuai denies sexual assault allegations

‘A lot of misunderstanding’: tennis star Peng Shuai denies sexual assault allegations

The Peng Shuai controversy weighs on preparations for the Beijing Winter Games. For the first time, the Chinese tennis player is now speaking openly – she talks about a “misunderstanding”.

Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, has denied having allegedly been sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese politician. In a video interview with Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao newspaper, the tennis player said: “I must stress one very important point: I have never said or written that someone sexually assaulted me. I have to admit that.” She feels misunderstood after her words.

This was the first time that Peng Shuai had spoken directly on the camera. The interview was conducted Sunday on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai. The former world number one in doubles posted a post on social network Weibo at the beginning of November, which was understood to be an allegation of sexual assault by former Politburo member Zhang Gaoli. This post was deleted soon after. Since then, state censorship has prevented any discussion on the Chinese internet on the subject.

In a video interview, Peng Shuai described her Weibo post as a “private matter.” The tennis star said that “a lot of misunderstanding” may have occurred among readers. In response to the post, athletes, politicians and human rights activists from around the world have expressed concern about the tennis player’s well-being. As the signals from China about the fate of the 35-year-old girls were not enough, the WTA Tour suspended all tournaments in China and Hong Kong at the beginning of December, even though China is an important donor.

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The case also cast a shadow over preparations for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. The German president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has come under pressure after speaking to the tennis star via video channels. In an interview with Sports Program on Saturday, he reiterated that the IOC continued to rely on “quiet diplomacy” in its case.

Bing Shuai also emphasized in the interview that she lives freely in Beijing and is not under supervision: “Why should anyone watch me? I have always been free.” She also wrote her email to WTA president Steve Simon from mid-November of her own volition. She had already confirmed in it that the reports about her, “including the allegation of sexual assault”, were not true and that she was fine. The message, however, only added to the WTA’s concern.

When asked if she would like to go abroad, Peng Shuai indicated that she no longer actively plays tennis and that she currently does not intend to leave China due to the epidemic: “What should I do there now?”