On November 2, 2021, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted a long message on her Weibo account, in which she alleged Zhang Gaoli, a retired Chinese vice-premier, of having forced or pressured her into sex three years previously.
She said she “cried the whole time” and afterwards felt like a “walking corpse”.
Not only was Peng then scrubbed from the Chinese internet, but she went missing.
It sparked the ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ movement which continues to this day.
Over two weeks after her appearance, Chinese state media released an email allegedly written by Peng, which stated that she was just resting at home and that her allegation of sexual assault was not true and that she was not missing.
This fueled speculation and concerns about the player’s safety.
Though the player has continued to stress she is safe and well, the Women’s Tennis Association has pulled all competitions in China.
Since her allegation, she has only made state sanctioned statements, controlled interviews and brief unverified appearances in Beijing.
What did Peng Shuai say about her disappearance?
Speaking to the French sports daily newspaper L’Equipe, Peng has reiterated that their is nothing to worry about and her Weibo post was misunderstood.
The former world number one was accompanied to the interview by the Chinese Olympic Committee’s chief of staff.
Not only this, but L’Équipe was required to submit questions in advance and publish her comments verbatim in question-and-answer form.
Peng thanked everyone for caring about her well-being, but asked why the situation has been “exaggerated”.
“I didn’t think there would be such concern and I would like to know: why such concern?” she said through a state controlled translator.
Peng claimed there had been an “enormous misunderstanding” about her post.
“I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more hype on this,” she said. “I never said anyone sexually assaulted me.”
This is despite Peng’s lengthy post describing her horrific sexual assault.
She claims she “never disappeared” and was in fact just resting and couldn’t reply to so many messages from concerned friends.
Perfectly reeled off and thought to be completely scripted, the interview provides no real answers to her well-being and continues to concern fans, tennis players and the likes of Amnesty International and the United Nations.