The chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has questioned an email claimed to tennis star Peng Shuai that was posted by Chinese state media.
Since making sexual assault charges against a prominent Chinese government official two weeks ago, the tennis star has remained silent.
Ms Peng purports to claim in the email that the charges are “not true.”
The letter “only intensifies” Steve Simon’s fears about Ms Peng’s safety, according to the WTA chairman.
In a statement, he stated, “I have a hard time believing Peng Shuai truly wrote the email we got or thinks what is being ascribed to her.”
The email, which was written in her voice and released by CGTN, states she is not missing or in danger, adding, “I’ve simply been relaxing at home and everything is great.”
Many people on social media have questioned its legitimacy.
Ms Peng, a former world number one tennis doubles player, has not been heard from since early November, when she made a complaint regarding former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on the Chinese social media site Weibo.
In a post that was subsequently taken down, she claimed she was “forced” into sexual intercourse with Mr Zhang, who served as the country’s Vice Premier from 2013 to 2018 and was a close associate of China’s leader Xi Jinping. Since then, she has not been seen or heard from in public.
Since then, the WTA and other prominent tennis figures have become increasingly vocal about Ms Peng.
When reporters requested for further information on the situation on Thursday, the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry declined.
Zhao Lijian stated, “This is not a foreign affairs issue.” “And I’m not aware of the circumstance you’re referring about.”
Novak Djokovic, the world number one male tennis player, stated earlier this week that he hoped Ms Peng was okay and that he was surprised, while Naomi Osaka expressed concern over her whereabouts.
On Wednesday, WTA head Steve Simon stated, “The WTA and the rest of the world require independent and verified confirmation that she is safe.”
He also stated that the investigation into the sexual assault accusation must be done “in full openness and without censorship.”
“Women’s voices must be heard and valued, not silenced or dictated,” he continued.
Ms Peng, 35, is a well-known tennis player in China. She won two Grand Slams with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
Her accusation is the most high-profile case in China’s nascent #MeToo movement. It comes only months before the Winter Olympics in China.