Naomi Osaka joins mounting calls for answers about missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's whereabouts

·3-min read

Naomi Osaka has joined a growing movement in the international tennis community demanding answers about the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai and her allegation of sexual assault. 

Osaka posted a message on Twitter Tuesday alongside the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai raising awareness about Peng's plight. 

"I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused," Osaka wrote. "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 2 - Ariake Tennis Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 26, 2021. Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts after winning her second round match against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland REUTERS/Mike Segar
Naomi Osaka isn't the first tennis start to speak out about Peng Shuai. (Retuers/Mike Segar)

Peng hasn't been seen in public since Nov. 2 allegation

Peng, 35, posted a message on Chinese social media outlet Weibo on Nov. 2 accusing retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. The message was removed within an hour of being posted, and mentions of the allegation have since been scrubbed from Chinese internet under control of the nation's government. 

Peng, who's won doubles titles at Wimbledon and the French Open, hasn't been seen in public since leveling the accusation, prompting concerns in the tennis and activist communities about her safety. The Chinese government declined to address the subject until Monday when foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked about it at a news conference. He claimed that he wasn't aware of Peng's situation before shutting down further questioning on the subject. 

"I have not heard of the issue you raised," Zhao told reporters. "This is not a diplomatic question."

He didn't address Peng's status or her accusation beyond that response.

Peng Shuai of China looks on during her women's singles match against Elena Vesnina of Russia at the Zhuhai Elite Trophy tennis tournament in Zhuhai, in south China's Guangdong province on November 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Peng Shuai hasn't been seen in public since making her Nov. 2 allegation. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Peng's allegation against high-ranking Chinese official

According to Peng, Zhang, who is believed to be 74 or 75 years old — pressured her into sex when she visited his and his wife's home for dinner approximately three years ago. She wrote that she eventually agreed to an ongoing affair that Zhang insisted on keeping secret.

“That afternoon I didn’t agree at first and kept crying,” Peng wrote, per a Washington Post translation. “ ... I know I can’t say it all clearly, and that there’s no use in saying it. But I still want to say it.”

Lu Pin, a U.S.-based Chinese feminist activist, told the Post she was worried about Peng's safety on Nov. 3, a day after she leveled her accusation. 

“We are all very nervous about what will happen to her,” Lu told the Post. “At the same time, we feel this is something very important that has happened.”

As Peng's whereabouts remain unknown nearly two weeks later, the Women's Tennis Association, Association of Tennis Professionals and stars of the tennis community such as Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Novak Djokovic have expressed concern and called for answers about Peng's allegation and safety. Osaka, who arguably possesses the most prominent voice in tennis today, has now joined the call. 

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