Naomi Osaka is among those who speak of growing concern online about a colleague who has “disappeared” after accusing a former high-ranking Chinese official of sexual abuse.
Japanese tennis star posted on social media with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to join those raising awareness about the 35-year-old Chinese player.
In a Twitter post Osaka, 24, wrote: “I’m not sure if you’ve been following the news, but I recently got word of a tennis player who has disappeared shortly after he revealed that he was sexually abused.
“Censorship is never ok at any cost.”
“I am shocked by the current situation and I am sending love and light in his path,” he wrote, adding that he hoped Peng and his family were “safe and fit.”
Osaka, a four-time grand slam champion, joined the ranks of other industry players who have spoken in support of the Chinese player.
Novak Djokovic and the organizers of the women’s and men’s professional tennis rounds have called for a full investigation into the allegations of a double Grand Slam championship.
It comes after Peng wrote a long post on social media earlier this month alleging that Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister and member of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced him into sex despite repeated refusals after a round of tennis. Three years ago.
He said Zhang’s wife was guarding the door during the incident.
Her message also said they had had sex once seven years ago and that she had feelings for her since then. Zhang Gaoli has not responded to his allegations.
The message was removed from his verified account in Weibo, China’s leading social media platform, and China’s wholly state-controlled media has suppressed reporting the incident.
Reports of the allegations circulated abroad for more than a week before WTA President and Chef Steve Simon issued a statement saying, “Peng Shuai and all the women deserve to be heard, not censored.
“His accusation of sexual abuse by a former Chinese leader must be taken extremely seriously.”
The men’s tour followed Monday, and Andrea Gaudenzi, president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), said tennis authorities were “deeply concerned about the immediate safety and whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai.”
“We are encouraged by the recent assurances from the WTA that he is safe and that he is on account and is monitoring the situation closely,” Gaudenzi said. “Separately, we fully support the WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into Peng Shuai’s sexual violence.”
Peng won 23 Tour-level doubles championships, including at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
He was in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014.
His accusation was the first prominent government official since the #MeToo movement took over in China in 2018, before it was largely shut down by authorities that same year.
When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked at a daily news conference earlier this week about Peng’s allegation, he said: “I have not heard the matter, and it is not a diplomatic issue.”