The Public May Never Know What’s Happening With Peng Shuai

The tennis star was seen in a video retracting previous claims she made about being sexually assaulted.

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The Public May Never Know What’s Happening With Peng Shuai
Image:Fred Lee (Getty Images)

Tennis star Peng Shuai has resurfaced in a 6-minute video for a Singaporean news outlet claiming she never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her. According to the English subtitles in the latest video, Peng Shuai left Beijing and traveled to Singapore to watch a ski competition. She claims she was able to do so freely as she is not being detained or monitored by anyone. At one point, she even laughs at the idea that she’s not been entirely free this entire time.

In November, on China’s social media platform Weibo, an account believed to belong to Peng Shuai accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. The post was removed shortly thereafter, and for over two weeks, the general public had not seen or heard anything from Peng Shuai. The air of suspicion around her silence worsened after the Women’s Tennis Association and International Olympic Committee got involved and offered up conflicting stories on Peng’s safety. The IOC announced they had spoken to Peng twice and stated that, in both conversations, she claimed she was safe. Despite these calls, a spokesperson for the IOC told ESPN, “We can’t provide you with absolute certainty on anything,” regarding Peng’s safety. Meanwhile, the WTA pulled all of their upcoming competitions out of China in a show of solidarity.

In the video posted on Sunday, Peng Shuai confirms that she wrote a letter to WTA CEO Steve Simon reassuring the organization that she was fine and that she was retracting any accusations of sexual assault. She goes on to claim that the letter came from her directly and was written entirely in Chinese, so any English versions of it were a translation that she herself did not write. Simon, however, shared earlier this month that he was not convinced that the communication was authentic and has continued to press for more transparency from sport governing bodies in China.

This video marks the second time Peng has been seen in public since her remarks on Weibo. Her first reappearance was during a sporting event in China, but the footage was met with scrutiny as to whether or not she was there of her own volition. However, just like in this latest video, she was at a state-sanctioned outing accompanied by representatives of China’s national team.

The global community will likely never know what happened or may still be happening to Peng Shuai. An unfortunate mix of censorship, language barriers, government, and sporting group interventions make it nearly impossible to distinguish genuine truth from manufactured truth. But what should not be lost in the American media discourse is Peng Shuai, the human being, not merely the star athlete, who has to contend with half the world dissecting her every move.

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