Peng, 35, wrote a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, alleging sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. Peng claimed Zhang, 75, forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago.
The post was quickly deleted and Peng has since disappeared from social media and public view. Tennis players and officials, led by Women’s Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon, are demanding a full investigation into Peng’s claims as well as assurances of her safety and wellbeing.
Beijing-controlled news agency the Global Times on Saturday posted two videos that show Peng in a restaurant supposedly during the weekend.
In the videos, posted by GT editor Hu Xijin, Peng and her coach and friends sit in the restaurant talking.
FILE – Peng Shuai of China returns a ball during the semifinal match against Shahar Peer of Israel, unseen, in the Guangzhou WTA Tour in Guangzhou in south China’s Guangdong province Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009. An email purportedly from Chinese professional tennis player Shuai that a Chinese state media outlet posted on Twitter has increased concerns about her safety as the sport’s biggest stars and others abroad call for information about her well-being and whereabouts since her accusation about two weeks ago that she was sexually assaulted by a former top government official. (AP Photo, File)
At one point, the coach says, “This year is not the same as last year. Our plan [inaudible] is ten tournaments. Tomorrow, isn’t tomorrow November 20?” A woman beside Peng says “21st,” and the coach agrees, “November 21st.” The woman reiterates, “Tomorrow is the 21st,” and the coach again agrees, “November 21st.”
The second video shows Peng entering the restaurant with the date prominently featured on the door, but the actual day smudged out.
Gordon Chang, columnist and the author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” verified the dialogue and noted how strange it is that in the video they discuss the full date when talking about plans.
“You would say ‘tomorrow, the 20th,’ or ‘tomorrow, Saturday,’ but they go out of their way to use the full date,” Chang told Fox News.
Chang also pointed out how strange it was that someone would randomly record a conversation at dinner. The quality of the video makes it difficult to doubt the authenticity, but it is not easy – maybe not even possible – to verify when the video was recorded.
But the fact that Beijing felt the need to send out video shows that international pressure is affecting them, Chang said.
FILE – Peng Shuai of China celebrates after winning the women’s singles match against Venus Williams of the United States in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Stadium in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in China following her accusation of sexual assault against a former top Communist Party official has shined a spotlight on similar cases involving political dissidents, entertainers, business leaders and others who have run afoul of the authorities. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
“You’re seeing public opinion around the world shift, so Beijing has to do something,” Chang told Fox News.
He also highlighted that Peng looks like she’s in “good shape” – a positive sign if the video is indeed authentic.
FILE – China’s Shuai Peng serves the ball to France’s Caroline Garcia during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Paris. Chinese authorities have squelched virtually all online discussion of sexual assault accusations apparently made by the Chinese professional tennis star against a former top government official, showing how sensitive the ruling Communist Party is to such charges. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
“Normally when China parades people out for these televised confessions, they look like they’ve been under duress, but she looks fine, which means they haven’t put the screws to her,” Chang said. “I suspect they’ll spring her out pretty soon, and she’ll say who knows what, but we’ll find out.”