Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai repeats denial of sexual assault allegation

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Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai once again denied claiming she was sexually assaulted by a former top Communist Party official – saying there was a “huge misunderstanding” about her social media post about the alleged incident.

On Monday, Peng told France’s L’Equipe newspaper that she never alleged that she had suffered a sexual assault, the BBC reported.

“Sexual assault? I never said that anyone made me submit to a sexual assault,” the Grand Slam doubles champion was quoted as telling L’Equipe.

But the interview at the Winter Olympics was conducted under tightly controlled conditions, the BBC reported.

L’Equipe had to submit questions in advance, and the interview was conducted in the presence of a representative from China’s Olympic Committee who also translated her comments.

Her interview comes after she shared a post in November accusing ex-Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

“This post resulted in an enormous misunderstanding from the outside world. My wish is that the meaning of this post no longer be skewed,” Peng reportedly told L’Equipe.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Peng Shuai had previous shared a post on Weibo accusing former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
Kim Kyung-Hoon/REUTERS

Asked by the outlet why the post disappeared from her account, Peng said: “I erased it. Why? Because I wanted to.”

However, the 36-year-old athlete wasn’t asked why she posted it in the first place.

Peng also did not reply directly to a question about whether she has been in trouble with Chinese authorities – responding instead with a comment that echoed views often expressed by the Chinese government about sport and politics.

Peng Shuai.
Peng Shuai says she erased the Weibo post “Because I wanted to.”
Andy Brownbill/AP

“My romantic problems, my private life, should not be mixed with sport and politics,” L’Equipe quoted her as saying.

Asked what her life has been like since her posting, she answered: “It is as it should be: Nothing special.”

Peng said she “would like to know: Why so much worry? I never disappeared. It’s simply that many people, like my friends and among them those from the IOC, sent me messages and it was completely impossible to respond to so many messages.”

Spectators wearing "Where is Peng Shuai?" T-shirts.
“Why so much worry? I never disappeared,” Peng Shuai claimed.
William West/AFP via Getty Images

The women’s professional tennis tour suspended all WTA tournaments in China because of concerns about her safety.

Peng told L’Equipe that a WTA mental health counseling unit sent her emails and a text message.

“That was very unfamiliar to me, Why would I need psychological help or that type of thing?” she said.

Peng Shuai.
The women’s professional tennis tour suspended all WTA tournaments in China because of concerns about Peng Shuai’s safety.
Fred DuFour/AFP via Getty Images

Peng also hinted she could retire from professional tennis.

“Considering my age, my multiple surgeries and the pandemic that forced me to stop for so long, I believe it will be very difficult to regain my physical level,” she told L’Equipe.

In December, Peng told a reporter for Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao: “I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me.”

With Post wires

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