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Twitter reacts to Peng Shuai's disappearance in the aftermath of her sexual abuse allegations against former Chinese Vice Premier

Peng Shuai at the Connecticut Open
Peng Shuai at the Connecticut Open
Rohan Pai

The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai is trending on Twitter as tennis fans and players are coming to grips with the sudden disappearance of Peng Shuai. There is a lot of concern for Peng's safety after her post on Weibo, a social media platform known as China's Facebook equivalent, highlighted the alleged sexual misconduct of a high-ranking politician.

In her Weibo post, Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, the former Chinese Vice Premier, of sexually abusing her. Peng provided intricate details about the trajectory of her relationship with the politician, and how it allegedly featured an episode of harassment and coercion.

According to the claims made in the post, Peng and Zhang were involved in "an on-off affair dating back to 2011 when the pair met in the port city of Tianjin." Peng also reportedly admitted that she had no evidence of the relationship because Zhang preferred to keep everything private and completely away from the public eye.

Peng further stated that even though Zhang cut all ties with her when he was promoted to the bureau in 2012, he made attempts to rekindle their relationship after he stepped down from his post in 2018. The former French Open doubles champion claimed that Zhang once invited her for dinner, after which he "pressured her into sex."

Peng Shuai has not been seen since 2 November, which is the day on which she made the allegations. The post was deleted within minutes of it appearing on the platform, while all of her other recent content on the site has also been removed. Even the Chinese word for tennis - 'wangqiu' has reportedly been censored on the social network.

Some users on Twitter are speculating that Peng Shuai knew about the consequences of posting something so damning against the ruling party. Her claims that she was inviting "self-destruction" by speaking the "truth" suggest that she was knowingly putting herself in harm's way.

"You've said you are not afraid. But even as an egg hurled at a rock, a moth to a flame for self-destruction, I will speak the truth with you," Peng Shuai mentioned in her post on Weibo.

"Let's not remain silent" - Alize Cornet on the Peng Shuai issue

Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai at the 2020 Australian Open - Day 4
Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai at the 2020 Australian Open - Day 4

Former American player Jamie Hampton tweeted in solidarity with Peng Shuai on Saturday, and questioned why the WTA hadn't taken any action.

if the peng shuai situation is true, and the @WTA says nothing… i don’t even fucking know.

The WTA have since issued a statement about Peng Shuai, demanding an investigation into the matter. However, they didn't mention anything about the lack of information on her whereabouts.

Other tennis players have also come out in support of Peng, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to alert their followers about the situation. French player Alize Cornet made a strong appeal asking everyone to speak out.

Let's not remain silent #WhereIsPengShuai 😰😰😰

Cornet's ATP counterpart Nico Mahut then picked up the baton and continued rallying for Peng Shuai. He was joined by Britain's Liam Broady and Tara Moore, the latter of whom labelled the incident "crazy".

The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA's problem. We are all concerned. @atptour @ITFTennis #whereispengshuai #stopthesilence twitter.com/wta/status/145…
I can’t believe this is even happening in the 21st century #WhereIsPengShuai

Fans have also been tweeting about Peng Shuai ever since the news broke out, in the hope that enough people get to know about it and thus ensure the player's safety.

All she was trying to do was tell the story of what happened to her. Hope she's safe and well somewhere. #WhereIsPengShuai
This is by far the scariest thing I've come across in 18 years of following any sport. Every tennis authority should do more than just put a banal statement of support.#WhereIsPengShuai
If we agree to tweet #WhereIsPengShuai at an agreed upon time, all of us at once, along with links to her story, maybe we can get it to trend worldwide and bring more attention to it? How many of you are down for it? This is horrible horrible stuff. Let's not stay silent, TT
This literally deserves to go viral. If everyone reading this even tweets/retweets the hashtag once, you will help to spread awareness. I hope she is safe #WhereIsPengShuai
Something terrible may have happened to Peng Shuai. Silence since she spoke out. Not a word from the WTA or the ITF. Or any high profile 'journalist.' The WTA is happy to take China's money, silent on their atrocities. Typical. Pathetic organisation. #WhereIsPengShuai twitter.com/EwanjeEpee/sta…

Edited by Musab Abid

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