Wimbledon Working 'Behind the Scenes' to Establish Peng Shuai's Safety

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVNovember 20, 2021

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: Shuai Peng of China plays a backhand during her Women's Doubles first round match with partner Shuai Zhang of China against Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Alison Riske of the United States on day four of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Wimbledon released a statement on Saturday regarding missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, saying it was "working in support of the WTA's efforts to establish her safety through our relationships behind the scenes."

Wimbledon @Wimbledon

We are united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe.<br><br>Full statement ⬇️ <a href="https://t.co/PDSiq7KlJ8">pic.twitter.com/PDSiq7KlJ8</a>

Peng was a 2013 women's doubles champion at Wimbledon alongside Hsieh Su-Wei, with whom she also won the 2014 French Open women's doubles.

The 35-year-old hasn't been seen publicly since accusing former Communist Party Standing Committee member Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

Shen Shiwei, who works for CGTN—China Central Television's English outlet—posted pictures of Peng on Twitter on Friday, claiming they were from Peng's WeChat and were accompanied by the message "Happy Weekend," per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

"In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed," Hu Xijin, the editor of the Communist Party's Global Times, wrote on Twitter. "She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon."

Hu Xijin 胡锡进 @HuXijin_GT

I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai's current state. In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon. <a href="https://t.co/VGLt6qoOOh">https://t.co/VGLt6qoOOh</a>

Hu also posted two videos reportedly from Saturday:

Hu Xijin 胡锡进 @HuXijin_GT

I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time. <a href="https://t.co/HxuwB5TfBk">pic.twitter.com/HxuwB5TfBk</a>

Hu Xijin 胡锡进 @HuXijin_GT

This is the second clip. <a href="https://t.co/BWzdBkIJ94">pic.twitter.com/BWzdBkIJ94</a>

Given that the pictures and video are being disseminated by Chinese state media—alongside the fact that Peng has not been seen in public by independent sources—skepticism abounds regarding the tennis player's safety.

WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon released a statement in response to the videos, calling them "insufficient" in proving Peng's health and well-being, per Andy Sims of the Evening Standard:

"I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing.
"While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.
"As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai's health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.
"I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

Simon said in a statement Wednesday that Peng "must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to."

"We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former PRC [People's Republic of China] senior official of sexual assaults," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. "We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe."

A number of current and former WTA and ATP players have also called for information on Peng's whereabouts:

NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ @naomiosaka

. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WhereIsPengShuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WhereIsPengShuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/51qcyDtzLq">pic.twitter.com/51qcyDtzLq</a>

Serena Williams @serenawilliams

I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereispengshuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#whereispengshuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/GZG3zLTSC6">pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6</a>

Simona Halep @Simona_Halep

Peng Shuai, please know that your fellow players stand with you. <br><br>Thinking of you and hope you are safe <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereispengshuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#whereispengshuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/CoMjLoLzLS">pic.twitter.com/CoMjLoLzLS</a>

Petra Kvitova @Petra_Kvitova

The news about Peng Shuai is deeply upsetting. I want to lend my voice of support to an incredibly courageous fellow WTA player and pray that she is found safe and well 🙏<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereispengshuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#whereispengshuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/5j7Xz65Gdr">pic.twitter.com/5j7Xz65Gdr</a>

"This is horrifying. I mean, a person is missing," Novak Djokovic said at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. "The whole community, tennis community needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she's safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange."

Simon said during an interview on CNN on Thursday that the WTA is "definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it" in China if Peng is not safely accounted for and her accusations aren't investigated.

There have already been calls to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are being held in Beijing, over China's human rights abuses. United States President Joe Biden told reporters this week he was "considering" a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Games.