Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai performed at a tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, according to official event photos international pressure mounted to get information about their wellbeing. Peng can be seen at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger final in a dark blue sports jacket and white sweatpants, as shown by photos on the official Weibo account of the China Open – her first public appearance since her sexual abuse allegations on the Chinese Internet. The two-time Grand Slam double-winner has not been seen publicly since claims former Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, now in his 70s, forced her to have sex during a multi-year on-off relationship.
After a worldwide outcry, including from tennis superstars and the United Nations, Chinese state media reporters have released a deluge of footage allegedly intended to show that everything is okay with Peng.
A video from the event, tweeted by Global Times newspaper editor Hu Xijin, shows Peng in a stadium amid a group of guests whose names are announced to light applause.
A Global Times reporter tweeted another video of Peng signing autographs for children in what appears to be the same stadium before they pose for photos with them.
Hu also posted two more videos on Saturday, the first showing Peng entering a restaurant wearing a coat, knitted hat and face mask.
A visible sign says Beijing Yibin Guesthouse, a famous restaurant a stone’s throw from Tiananmen Square, owned by the local Sichuan government.
In the second, Peng sits at a table without a mask and chats with people over dinner.
AFP was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.
Hu tweeted in English that the second video showed “Peng Shuai was having dinner with her trainer and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows that they were filmed in Beijing time on Saturday. “
The conversation turned to “tennis matches”. A man sitting with Peng and two women said, “Tomorrow is November 20th”.
But one of the women quickly corrects him and says: “It’s the 21st” and indicates that the video was shot on Saturday.
The chat seems to be staged. The film was filmed with a cell phone in the evenings. Peng looks relaxed in the footage.
Peng’s allegations against Zhang were the first time China’s #MeToo movement touched the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party.
They were quickly removed from the Twitter-like Weibo platform, and since then, concerns about their security have grown.
In the restaurant videos, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon, said he was happy to see the pictures, but “it remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action without coercion or action external interference “.
“This video alone is not enough,” said Simon in a statement.
“I’ve made it clear what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
A WTA spokeswoman later told AFP that the pictures from Sunday in Beijing still did not address her concerns.
It has threatened to terminate lucrative contracts with China if it receives no news of Peng’s safety.
Chinese state media journalists have published what they believe is evidence that everything is fine.
First, the state CGTN tweeted a screenshot of an email Peng sent to the WTA last week saying that their allegations were not true and that “everything is fine”.
However, doubts have been expressed about the awkward language and a cursor visible in the screenshot.
Then on Friday photos of a smiling Peng appeared on the verified Twitter account @shen_shiwei, which the social network dubbed the Chinese state-affiliated media.
The authenticity of the images could not be verified and the user did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.
This was followed by the videos that were released on Saturday and Sunday.
China’s government has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.
Discussion of Peng’s allegations is blocked on China’s tightly controlled internet.
“Independent, verifiable evidence”
A growing chorus of voices in the sports world and beyond want to know where and how bang is.
The White House has expressed “deep concern” about Peng. President Joe Biden’s press secretary said his administration wanted China to provide “independent, verifiable evidence” of their whereabouts.
The UK Foreign Office also said it was “extremely concerned” and urged China to release verifiable evidence, while France’s Foreign Secretary said she should speak freely to clarify her situation.
The UN has insisted on a completely transparent investigation into Peng’s claims.
Some of the sport’s biggest names have spoken out on the case, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka.
Superstar Roger Federer also weighed in on Saturday and said on Sky News: “She is one of our tennis champions, a former number one in the world. It is clearly worrying. I hope she is safe.”
Peng represented China at the Olympics in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro and won gold for China at the 2010 Asian Games.
She is a former Wimbledon and French Open double winner.
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