The Women’s Tennis Association remains “deeply concerned” over the wellbeing of Peng Shuai.
CEO Steve Simon has attempted to contact the Chinese star “via various communication channels”, including by email, a WTA statement read.
Peng replied to the emails but the WTA believes “it was clear her responses were influenced by others.”
This has led to further worries that Peng “is not free from censorship or coercion” and Simon has made the decision to avoid engaging contact with the 35-year-old “until he was satisfied her responses were her own.”
Earlier this month, Peng disappeared from the public eye after making public sexual assault allegations against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. She posted the accusations on social media website Weibo, before the platform deleted her post and muted search terms for her name, and even the word ‘tennis’ shortly after.
The silence from Peng led to widespread concern, which sparked an online campaign under the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have joined the movement, both tweeting messages in attempt to aid investigation into Peng’s whereabouts.
Following the rise in concern and demand for answers, Peng was then seen in public for the first time in weeks. She was filmed at two social events last weekend — an associate dinner and a tennis event in Beijing.
She also appeared on a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on November 21st and said “she is safe and well” at home but “would like to have her privacy respected at this time.”
However, despite the IOC statement and appearances in public, Simon is not convinced Peng is completely safe and has branded the evidence of such as “insufficient.”
China’s foreign ministry has since hit back at unnamed individuals for the “malicious hyping” of the situation and has stressed Peng is fine, while stating the issues raised over her wellbeing are “not a diplomatic matter.”
Chinese state media also recently released a letter purportedly written by the 23-time doubles champion, which states she is ‘not missing, nor unsafe’ and the sexual assault allegation made via her social media account is “not true.”
Question marks have been raised by many over the legitimacy of this letter.
The WTA concluded its statement by reiterating the remaining concern over Peng’s “ability to communicate freely, openly, and directly.”