Tennis icon Serena Williams is the latest high profile sportsperson to speak out on the disappearance of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
The American great posted on Twitter, using the hashtag “#whereispengshuai”, and urged the case to be investigated.
“I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai,” the 40-year-old said. “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.”
Peng has not been seen or heard from since she made sexual assault accusations against former Chinese Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli.
The 25-year-old shared the allegations on the social media website, Weibo, only for her post to be deleted for supposedly violating community rules. Searches of her name and even the word ‘tennis’ were also blocked –– emphasising the sensitivity of discussing such topics in China.
Chinese state media has released an email they claim is from Peng, but doubts have been cast over its authenticity.
The letter read: "The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I am not missing, nor am I unsafe.
"I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me."
The dubious email has led to heightened concern for Peng’s welfare. WTA Chairman, Steve Simon, released a statement saying he was now even more concerned “as to her safety and whereabouts” and stressed Peng “must be allowed to speak freely.”
Williams’ post online comes after a number of tennis stars have tried to raise awareness and stimulate action.
Four-time major winner, Naomi Osaka, condemned censorship at all costs and said she was “in shock” at the current situation.
Meanwhile, Billie Jean King praised Simon for doing everything possible to find Peng.
“Like so many others in and out of tennis, my concern for Peng Shuai’s safety and freedom grows every day.
“I am proud of WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon and the WTA leadership for taking a strong stance and leading the charge in the conversation to ensure Peng’s safety.”
It’s not just tennis players who have shared their concerns either. Barcelona and Spain defender, Gerard Piqué posted “#WhereIsPengShuai” on his Twitter.
Peng last played tennis in February 2020, reaching the semi-finals of the Qatar Open in Doha.
The star was ranked as high as 14th in singles back in 2011 and reached the 2014 US Open semi-final.News Now - Sport News