"All those twisted misinterpretations are simply not true"- Peng Shuai on sexual assault allegations

Peng Shuai spoke to Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao
Peng Shuai spoke to Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao

Peng Shuai has spoken to the media for the very first time since accusing former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a social media post.

Talking to a reporter from Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, Peng denied writing that she was sexually assaulted.

On 2 November, Peng Shuai wrote about her experience on the Chinese social media site Weibo. The post was almost immediately taken down and there was no further communication from the Chinese player.

A number of tennis stars, including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal, voiced their concerns over Peng's safety while the WTA demanded an investigation into the matter.

Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times released a couple of videos of the 35-year-old enjoying a meal with her friends at a Beijing restaurant. However, WTA chairman Steve Simon deemed this as insufficient evidence.

The WTA eventually decided to suspend all tennis tournaments in China, a move that was supported by many, including Andy Roddick, Petra Kvitova and Billie Jean King.

However, there was still no update on Peng's whereabouts until Sunday, when she spoke to the media for the very first time at a skiing competition in Shanghai.

#PengShuai speaks to the media for the first time since posting her explosive allegations. The reporter interviewing her is from a Singaporean newspaper that is blocked in China. Peng talks about her accusation and her life since posting it on Weibo (PART 1)
"I want to make one point clear. I never said or wrote that I was sexually assaulted. This is something I want to make absolutely clear. Regarding my Weibo post, it entirely concerns problems in my own personal life. And I think that everyone has a lot of misunderstandings of what happeed. All those twisted misinterpretations are simply not true."

Shortly after Peng's disappearance, CGTN released an email which she wrote to the WTA, claiming that she was safe. However, Simon said that he "had a hard time" believing that the 35-year-old actually wrote the email.

Speaking to CNN, he said:

"I would characterise them (the emails) as orchestrated at this time. When you come out with allegations that she did early in November, they were significant and detailed. And now to be receiving the emails and correspondence from her (Peng Shuai) that are just 100% orchestrated... I do not think they reflect what the allegations did and the true position. I can only imagine the range of emotions she's going through."

Peng confirmed that she wrote the email in Chinese which was later translated to English.

"I wrote to the WTA CEO in Chinese. The email was entirely written by myself. The English version was a translation because I don't have the language ability to translate Chinese into English."

When the WTA announced its decision to suspend all tournaments in China, the IOC responded by saying that a personal meeting with Peng was arranged for January, just days before claiming that they could not give any assurances regarding her safety.

In the recent video, Peng Shuai said that she had no intentions of traveling abroad because of the pandemic and with no international competitions around the corner.

"Given the current coronavirus situation, how do I say it, it's safer? No not that. It's more that right now, I don't have any international competitions. I'm not going to go overseas for no reason right now. Like of course, if there was no pandemic, I'd go overseas to watch competitions. But I'm not going to go overseas just to prove something. Like what would I be doing over there? You tell me."

Peng Shuai's comments fail to alleviate WTA's concerns over her well-being

WTA still concerned about Peng's well being
WTA still concerned about Peng's well being

Despite Peng's latest appearance and comments, the WTA's concerns regarding her safety haven't eased. A statement from them read:

“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well. As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion."

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Edited by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
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