WTA chief Steve Simon deems Chinese video evidence on Peng Shuai as "insufficient", writes to US ambassador seeking "assistance"

Peng Shuai is yet to make a public appearances since first coming forward with her allegations.
Peng Shuai is yet to make a public appearances since first coming forward with her allegations.

In an official statement released on Sunday, WTA chairman Steve Simon claimed that the video and statements released by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai's whereabouts are "insufficient".

The statement comes in the wake of a growing chorus of concern surrounding the well-being of Peng, who has been facing blanket censorship in China ever since accusing the country's former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse.

Hu Xijin -- the editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-run Global Times -- recently posted two videos on Twitter showing Peng enjoying a meal at a restaurant, shot on "Saturday Beijing Time". But with little evidence to back the claims, the authenticity of the posts has been widely questioned.

I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time.

Simon, who had demanded a full and transparent investigation into the tennis player's allegations in an earlier statement, said that while it was good to see Peng in the aforementioned video, it remained unclear if she was acting out of free will.

"I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing," Simon said.
"While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.
Shuai at the 2020 Australian Open.
Shuai at the 2020 Australian Open.

Simon also wrote a letter to China's Ambassador to the US, seeking assistance on getting his message through to the Chinese authorities.

In the letter, Simon reiterated the two major requests made in earlier statements. The first being "independent and verifiable" proof of Peng Shuai's whereabouts and well-being. The WTA chief asked for Peng to be allowed to leave China and speak to the governing body directly.

Second, he pressed for a full investigation into the "serious" sexual abuse allegations made by the Chinese player.

"In order to bring this matter to a successful conclusion, I have two requests for which seek your assistance," Simon wrote. "First, there needs to be independent and verifiable confirmation that Peng Shuai is safe. I request she be allowed to leave the country or speak live via teleconference with me."
"Second, the accusation of sexual assault is serious," he continued."As the leader of a women's tennis organization, I think it is vital to see that this allegation is investigated fairly, fully, transparently and without censorship. Anything less would be a setback for the rights of women, not to mention the cause of justice."

"Our relationship with China is at a crossroads" - WTA toughens stance on the Peng Shuai case

Steve Simon in Shenzhen for the 2019 WTA Finals.
Steve Simon in Shenzhen for the 2019 WTA Finals.

Simon had earlier said in his New York Times interview that the WTA would withdraw all its business from China if it did not see "appropriate results" on the issue surrounding Peng Shuai.

He doubled down on his stance in both his latest statement as well as the letter addressed to China's ambassador. Simon highlighted the organization's "productive" partnership with China, but said that the relationship now stood at a "crossroads".

"The WTA has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with China," Simon wrote. "We operate 9 tournaments there, including the prestigious Finals in Shenzhen."
"However, if our two requests are not honored, we will have no choice but to seriously consider whether we can play in China again. Simply put, the WTA is at a crossroads in China."

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Edited by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
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