Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Calls Sexual Assault Allegations a ‘Huge Misunderstanding’

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said on Feb. 6 that her social media post alleging sexual assault by a former Chinese Communist Party leader sparked a “huge misunderstanding.”

In her first international interview since making the allegation, Peng told French newspaper L’Equipe, “I hope that the meaning of this post will no longer be distorted.”

“I never said anyone sexually assaulted me,” Peng added, without elaborating on how her post had been misunderstood.

On Nov. 2, 2021, Peng posted on Chinese social media website Weibo alleging that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex with him.

The post was removed in less than an hour after publication, and Peng disappeared for weeks.

However, Peng told L’Equipe that she deleted the post “because I wanted to” and denied disappearing.

“It’s just that a lot of people, like my friends including from the [International Olympic Committee], messaged me, and it was quite impossible to reply to so many messages,” Peng said.

Although L’Equipe had to submit interview questions in advance, it was able to ask more. However, Peng did not respond to questions about whether Chinese authorities gave her any problems over the post.

The interview was conducted at the Winter Olympics under the presence of a representative from the Chinese Olympic Committee who translated Peng’s responses from Chinese.

In a statement, Women’s Tennis Association Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Simon said that the interview “does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2.”

Simon further said that WTA has called on a formal investigation into the allegations and an opportunity to meet with Peng privately to discuss her situation.

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