With the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai still unknown, a man claiming to be her friend has said that she asked the head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) not to “hype up” her personal affairs via email, but that her request was ignored. Chinese state media has used the same phrase recently, saying: “People should stop deliberately and maliciously hyping [the issue] up, let alone politicize this issue.”
Peng disappeared earlier this month after accusing former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her in a statement on Weibo. She has only been seen since in a handful of tightly controlled videos and photos. Now, a man named Ding Li has tweeted a screenshot of an email he claims that Peng wrote to WTA chief Steve Simon asking not to be “disturbed.” It said: “At the moment I do not want to be disturbed, and especially [can you] not hype up my personal affairs. I hope to live quietly. Thank you again for your concern.” The Ding account appears to be peddling the Chinese state line.
In an email interview with BBC News, Ding alleged Peng was living freely in Beijing but when the BBC asked to speak to her, he replied that she had declined because “she only wishes to have a good rest alone in her own home.” Ding said Peng’s alleged emails to the WTA showed “there was no sexual assault,” but Peng explicitly accused Zhang of assaulting with her, saying: “I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”