What Happened to Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai?

It’s been several days since anyone has been able to confirm the whereabouts or safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who was recently censored by the Chinese government after accusing a prominent politician of sexual assault. The #WhereIsPengShuai? hashtag has been trending for days, yet Peng’s location is unknown. Below, find answers to all your questions about the athlete—or, at least, all the answers that we have at the moment.

Who is Peng Shuai?

Born in Xiangtan, China, in 1986, Peng was ranked world number one in doubles by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 2014, becoming the first Chinese tennis player to do so. Over the course of her career, Peng has won two singles and 22 doubles titles, including at Wimbledon and the French Open. 

What were the circumstances leading up to Peng’s disappearance?

Earlier this month, Peng acccused China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, of sexual assault, writing on the Chinese social media site Weibo that he forced her into a sexual relationship. Peng’s allegations were quickly deleted from Weibo by the Chinese government, but they drew the attention of governing sports bodies, including the WTA, which released a statement saying, in part, “Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”

When did Peng disappear?

Peng has not been seen publicly since November 2.

What has the Chinese government’s reaction been?

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Friday that the matter was “not a diplomatic question” and that he was “not aware of the situation.” On Thursday, Chinese state media published an email purportedly written by Peng herself that disavowed her earlier sexual-assault accusations, though many—including WTA executive director Steve Simon—have questioned whether Peng actually wrote the email.

Who is investigating Peng’s disappearance?

A spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Friday that it was calling for “an investigation with full transparency into [Peng’s] allegation of sexual assault.” The WTA has also threatened to pull its tournaments in China if Peng’s allegations against Zhang Gaoli aren’t met with an adequate response. For its part, the International Olympic Committee declined to comment on Friday, telling ESPN in an emailed statement: “Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature. This explains why the IOC will not comment any further at this stage.” Fellow tennis players, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, have spoken out about Peng’s disappearance, as well, with Osaka writing on Twitter, “Censorship is never OK at any cost.”


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