After Chinese state media released an email purportedly from the famous tennis player Peng Shuai, the president of the International Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) publicly expressed doubts about its authenticity.
The president of the association, Steve Simon, said in a statement that he “difficult to believe” that this email was written by Peng Shuai or with her authorization.
Peng Shuai, 35, is a well-known sports star in China, but since she filed an allegation of sexual assault against Zhang Gaoli, the former deputy prime minister of China this month, there has been no news.
The official English media China Global Television Network (CGTN) released this email purportedly written by her on Wednesday (November 17), with the text “CGTN has learned that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has reported to WTA Chairman and CEO Steve · Simon sent an email”.
The email wrote in Peng Shuai’s tone that she was not missing or in distress, and stated that “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
This English email stated that it is believed that the allegations of sexual assault made by her are false.
“Regarding the recent news published on the WTA official website, the content has not been confirmed or verified by me, and it was published without my consent,” the email also wrote.
“If WTA publishes any other news about me, please check with me and publish it with my consent.”
On social media, many netizens questioned the authenticity of this email, including pointing out that a typing cursor can be seen on the screenshot of the email posted by CGTN.
“Peng Shuai wrote to the Nets Association, how did CGTN get the edited version? And there is no signature, time, how do people believe?” A Twitter netizen said.
In addition, this incident has not been reported by any official media in China.
Peng Shuai was once the world’s number one player in women’s tennis doubles and won two Grand Slam titles-the Wimbledon Open in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. Both partners are Taiwanese player Xie Shuwei.
However, on November 2 she posted an accusation against Zhang Gaoli, a 75-year-old former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council, on the verified account of the Chinese social platform Weibo.
She claimed that she was “forced” to have sex with Zhang Gaoli, although she admitted in the article that she was unable to produce evidence to substantiate her allegations. Since then, she has never appeared in public, and her name has also been blocked on multiple social platforms.
When asked by reporters many times about the Peng Shuai incident this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that this is not a foreign affairs. However, in the excerpts from the press conference released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, all the questions and answers about Peng Shuai were deleted.
Recently, the International Women’s Tennis Association and some famous tennis players have spoken out about the incident. Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka said on Twitter, “In any case, the review is wrong. I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe.”
In response to the e-mail published by CGTN, Chairman Steve Simon said that this e-mail “will only make me worry about her safety and whereabouts.”
“It’s hard for me to believe that Peng Shuai is really the author of the email we received, or that these things are believed to be from her,” he said in the statement. “WTA and the world need independent and verifiable evidence to prove that she is safe.”
Simon also reiterated that Peng Shuai’s allegations of sexual assault must be investigated under “complete transparency and no review.”
“Female voices need to be heard and respected, not censored or manipulated,” he added.