Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai has now denied making sexual assault allegations against a Chinese Communist Party leader, following more than a month of growing concern about her safety and whereabouts.
In November 2, Peng, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex at his home three years ago.
Chinese authorities responded immediately by censoring any mention of the accusation online and blocked Peng’s Weibo account from search results.
Following the accusation, Peng ‘disappeared’ from public view for more than two weeks, prompting the world’s biggest tennis stars and the United Nations to demand answers as to her whereabouts .
While the UN started a full investigation into her allegations against Zhang, the Women’s Tennis Association pulled out of China.
Till date, Chinese authorities have not acknowledged the sexual assault allegations against Zhang and discussion of the subject continues to be censored in China’s social media apps.
Now Peng has denied ever making any allegations saying she was misunderstood.
“I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulting me,” Peng told Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on Sunday, December 19.
These were her first comments to international media since the allegations came to light.
When asked if she has been able to move freely or was concerned about her safety, Peng said she has “always been free” and that she has been living at her home in Beijing.
Peng said there was a misunderstanding about the since-deleted social media post on her verified account on Weibo.
“First of all, it’s my personal privacy. There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here,” she said.
Amid growing global outcry over her safety, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it held at least two video calls with her, saying the Chinese tennis star “reconfirmed” she was safe and well.
In Sunday’s interview, Peng expressed her appreciation toward the IOC, saying she feels “very grateful” to the Olympic body and was “very happy to have video calls with them.”
Peng also said she wrote an email to WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon recanting the allegations “completely of my own will.”