The United Nations has called for proof of whereabouts and wellbeing for missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared after she went public with accusations of sexual assault against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. The organization, which is calling for an investigation into her allegations, wants full transparency from the Chinese government.
Peng Shuai, 35, is one of China’s most recognizable athletes. She disappeared from public since accusing the high-ranking Chinese Communist Party member of coercing her into sex at his home, according to screenshots of a now-deleted social media post dated November 2, CNN reported.
Peng’s allegations on Chinese social media platform Weibo were censored within a half hour after being posted, as Chinese state censors moved to erase any mention of her claims online. Her Weibo account, which maintains more than half a million followers, is blocked from search results in China.
"What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"According to available information, the former world doubles No. 1 hasn't been heard from publicly since she alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted. We would stress that it is important to know where she is and know her state, know about her wellbeing," Throssell said.
The United Nations’ calls for answers followed concerns raised by tennis pros including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Naomi Osaka, who voiced concerns about the 35-year-old’s safety.
Osaka tweeted about Peng on Tuesday after learning that the Chinese athlete had "gone missing," with the hashtag, #WhereisPengShuai.
Pressure is mounting on the Chinese government to come clean with her safety. Steve Simon, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association, says that he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese business if Peng is not accounted for and her allegations are not fully investigated.
"We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it," Simon said to CNN. "Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”
"Women need to be respected and not censored," he said.
An email, apparently from Peng to Steve Simon, was published by Chinese state-affiliated media organization CGTN, dismissing the allegations.
Neither the Chinese government nor Zhang has refused to publicly acknowledge Peng’s allegations against the party official, but a Chinese state media editor on Friday said that he did not believe she has been the target of state retribution.
"As a person who is familiar with Chinese system, I don't believe Peng Shuai has received retaliation and repression speculated by foreign media for the thing people talked about," wrote Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times on Twitter.