Serena Williams has stated that the situation of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai “must be probed” and that people should “not remain silent” concerning her well-being.
Since making sexual assault charges against a senior Chinese government official two weeks ago, Peng, 35, has not been heard from.
An email ascribed to Peng was issued by Chinese official media, although its validity has been questioned.
“I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible,” American Williams expressed his wish.
The Women’s Tennis Association’s head, Steve Simon, has stated that if the answer to Peng’s claim is not satisfactory, the organization would withdraw its events from China.
Simon told reporters, “We’re absolutely prepared to pull our business and deal with all the issues that come with that.”
“Because this is unquestionably greater than the company. Women must be valued rather than suppressed.”
Simon questioned the email published by Chinese official media on Wednesday, saying it “only increases” fears about Peng’s safety.
The Lawn Tennis Association, the sport’s regulatory body in the United Kingdom, said it had “assisted” the WTA in “establishing Peng’s safety and well-being.”
Peng’s safety has been a source of concern since she said she was “forced” into a sexual connection with former China vice-premier Zhang Gaoli.
The United Nations says it seeks verification of Peng’s location and has called for a “completely transparent” probe.
Peng made her charges in a post on the Chinese social media site Weibo on November 3rd, which was quickly removed off the internet in China.
This is the first time such a charge has been leveled against a prominent Chinese politician.
Williams, along with Andy Murray of the United Kingdom, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and Naomi Osaka of Japan, are among the many prominent players who have expressed concern over Peng’s well-being.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, said, “I am heartbroken and stunned to hear the news.”
“This needs to be looked at, and we must not remain silent.”
“Sending my heartfelt condolences to her and her family during this really trying time.”
Peng is a former world number one doubles player who has won two Grand Slam championships, both with Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei, at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
She also reached the US Open singles semi-finals in 2014 and attained a career-high singles ranking of 14 in 2011.
Peng, who hasn’t competed on the WTA Tour since March 2020, admitted she wouldn’t be able to back up her accusations with evidence.
Her accusation is the most high-profile case of the #MeToo movement in China.
Zhang, who is 75 years old, has not replied to Peng’s allegations. Between 2013 to 2018, he was China’s vice-premier and a close supporter of President Xi Jinping.
When asked about it by a reporter on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed he was “not aware of the relevant circumstances.”