Beijing said Tuesday that fears about Peng Shuai are being “maliciously” escalated.© AFP
China said Tuesday the Peng Shuai controversy was “maliciously” hailed after the Chinese tennis star sexually assaulted one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Peng, a Wimbledon and French Open double winner, was not seen for more than two weeks after bringing sexual assault allegations against a former vice-premier. The 35-year-old first appeared in public at the weekend when she was seen at a tennis tournament in Beijing.
“I think some people should stop deliberately and maliciously covering up, let alone politicizing, this issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, when asked whether the case has damaged China’s international image.
The comment was the Chinese government’s most direct response to Peng’s case.
By Tuesday, Beijing had repeatedly denied questions about her whereabouts and welfare – calling it “not a diplomatic matter”.
Evidence for their claims has also been removed from China’s heavily censored Internet.
Peng appeared in a 30-minute video call with the head of the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.
But human rights groups and sports authorities overseas have continued to express concerns about Peng’s welfare and whether the authorities will respond to their allegations.
“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into your allegations of sexual assault without censorship, which is the issue that sparked our initial concern,” said the Women’s Tennis Association.
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