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New videos of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai emerge, but worldwide outcry grows


Chinese state media on Sunday posted videos pretending to show a tennis star Peng Shuai smiling and well, while international pressure increased for information about her whereabouts. The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion has not been seen in public since claiming earlier this month that former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, now in his 70s, “forced” her to have sex during an on-off relationship that spanned several years. stretch. Following a worldwide outcry, including from tennis superstars and the United Nations, Chinese state media have released footage pretending to show that Peng is doing well.

In one of the videos, tweeted by Global Times newspaper editor Hu Xijin, it appears that Peng is standing in a stadium at what he described as the “opening ceremony of a teenage tennis match final”.

She is in a group of guests whose names are announced to applause. Few spectators are visible on the plots.

A Global Times reporter tweeted another video showing Peng drawing autographs for children at a stadium before posing for photos with them.

In one of two other cuts posted by Hu on Saturday, she appears to be walking into a restaurant wearing a coat, knitted hat and face mask.

A visible sign says Beijing Yibin Guesthouse, a well-known Sichuan restaurant a stone’s throw from Tiananmen Square, owned by the Sichuan local government.

In the second, Peng sits masklessly at a table and talks to people over a meal.

AFP could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Hu tweeted in English that the second video shows “Peng Shuai had dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows that they were shot on Saturday Beijing time.”

The conversation revolved around “tennis matches”. A man sitting with Peng and two women said “tomorrow is November 20”.

But one of the women quickly corrects him and says, “This is the 21st,” implying that the video was filmed Saturday.

It looks like the chat was staged. It was filmed in the evening with a cell phone. Peng appears relaxed in the footage.

‘Insufficient’

Peng’s demands against Zhang were the first time that China’s #MeToo movement had reached the highest level of the ruling Communist Party.

They were quickly scrubbed from the Twitter-like Weibo platform, and concerns have since increased about her safety.

Of the new videos, Steve Simon, head of the Women’s Tennis Association, said he was happy to see the images, but “it remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action on her own,” without coercion or external interference. “

“This video alone is insufficient,” Simon said in a statement.

“I was clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”

The WTA has threatened to terminate lucrative contracts with China unless it learns of Peng’s security.

Chinese state media have revealed what they say is proof that everything is fine with her.

First, the state-run CGTN last week tweeted a screenshot of what was said to be an email from Peng to the WTA saying her accusations were not true and that she was “resting at home and everything is fine”.

But there are doubts about the awkward language use and a pointer visible in the screenshot.

Then photos of a smiling Peng appeared on the verified Twitter account @shen_shiwei on Friday, which was tagged by the social network Chinese state-affiliated media.

The authenticity of the images could not be verified, and the user did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.

This was followed by the videos posted on Saturday and Sunday.

China has repeatedly refused to comment on the matter.

Discussion of Peng’s accusations is blocked on China’s strictly controlled internet.

‘Independent, verifiable proof’

A growing chorus of voices in the sports world and further want to know where and how Peng is.

The White House has expressed “deep concern” over Peng, with President Joe Biden’s press secretary saying his administration wanted China to “provide independent, verifiable evidence” of her whereabouts.

Britain’s foreign ministry also said it was “extremely concerned” and urged China to obtain verifiable evidence.

The UN has called for a fully transparent investigation into Peng’s claims against Zhang

Some of the biggest names in tennis have spoken out on the matter, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka.

Superstar Roger Federer also weighed in on Saturday, saying on Sky News: “She is one of our tennis champions, a former world number one. It’s clearly worrying. I hope she’s safe.”

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Peng represented China at the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro and won gold for China at the 2010 Asian Games.

She is a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion.

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