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