Peng Shuai talks deleted social media posts and sexual assault allegations

Beijing, China - Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai says she was the one who deleted the social media post last year that was seen as an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese politician.

Peng Shuai pictured at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Peng Shuai pictured at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.  © IMAGO / Kyodo News

In an interview with the French sport newspaper L'Équipe published on Monday, the 36-year-old was asked why the post disappeared.

"I erased it," she said. "Why? Because I wanted to."

She also said the emails sent to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) in her name were written by her.

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The WTA has voiced concern that Peng was coerced to publicly retract the allegations, and suspended its tournaments in China citing concerns for her wellbeing.

Peng, a former world number one in doubles, largely disappeared from public view after posting an allegation of sexual assault against a leading Chinese politician on Weibo.

The post was deleted soon after and Peng denied making the allegations.

Athletes, politicians, and human rights experts have expressed concern for Peng despite the IOC having video calls with her last year.

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach speaking at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach speaking at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.  © IMAGO / Xinhua

In the interview with L'Équipe, which was conducted in Chinese with an interpreter translating Peng's answers into English, she again denied having made accusations of sexual assault.

"I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way," she said.

She also denied having disappeared. "I never disappeared. Everyone could see me," Peng said.

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Peng also said in the interview that she had met with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, and had "a nice discussion and exchange."

The IOC confirmed a meeting took place between Peng, former Chair of the Athletes’ Commission Kirsty Coventry and Bach in a Beijing hotel on Saturday.

Before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the IOC had promised a meeting with the Chinese player would take place during the Games.

The IOC said Peng accepted an invitation to visit their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the meeting.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Kyodo News

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