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Peng Shuai: Canada’s tennis community reacts to the disappearance of Chinese tennis players

Canada’s tennis community has joined the call for an independent investigation into the whereabouts and state of health of China’s Peng Shuai.

Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., and Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino and Vasek Pospisil tweeted about Peng on Friday, using the hashtag # “#WhereIsPengShuai.” The Canadians joined a chorus of other tennis experts, including Serena Williams of the US and Andy Murray of Britain, demanding to know what happened to Peng.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it was unaware of the controversy surrounding Peng, who disappeared after accusing a former top official of sexually assaulting her.

Marino said in an interview with The Canadian Press: “There are a lot of players speaking out and we are forming a united front to bring attention to what is happening with Peng Shuai.

“We are looking for the safety and well-being of not only a tennis player, but a person of international concern.”

Pospisil tweeted a statement from the Professional Tennis Players Association saying it was asking for independent evidence confirming Peng’s safety and location.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety and well-being of our players,” the PTPA statement read. “We must be united and ready to act unless definitive proof is provided to the world about Peng’s state of health.”

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters the matter “is not a diplomatic question and I don’t know about the situation.” The department has consistently denied knowledge of the matter since Peng first went public with the allegations.

She wrote in a lengthy social media post on November 2 that she was forced to have sex three years ago with Zhang Gaoli at his home despite repeated rejections. Zhang, 75, is a former deputy prime minister who served as a member of the ruling Communist Party’s almighty Politburo Standing Committee.

The post was quickly removed from her verified account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots of the explosive allegation were shared on the internet.

The 35-year-old Peng is a former top tennis player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She also competed in three Olympics, prompting her disappearance. Hers became even more prominent when Beijing hosted the event. The Winter Olympics start on February 4.

Marino and Peng have only played each other once, winning 6-3, 6-0 for the Chinese player at the 2013 Australian Open. The Canadian tennis player said that although she did not know Peng well, they knew each other well. while regularly touring with the Women’s Tennis Association.

Steve Simon, president and chief executive officer of the WTA, has said that his organization is ready to withdraw from scheduled events in China if Peng’s health is not independently verified. Simon also questioned the authenticity of an email allegedly sent to him by Peng saying she was safe.

Marino supports the WTA’s stance and said she is waiting for more information before deciding if she will compete in China again.

“We want to make sure that women’s rights are heard and censored regarding allegations are appropriately reviewed and investigated,” she said.

Tennis Canada released a statement on Friday saying that along with the rest of the tennis world, it has deep concerns for Peng’s health and security. It also calls for independent and irrefutable evidence that Peng is safe.

Tennis Canada said: “We admire the courage Peng Shuai showed in denouncing the conduct of a former Chinese leader in relation to allegations of sexual assault. “She must be allowed to speak freely without censorship and her allegations must be investigated with full transparency.”

The International Olympic Committee, which declined to comment on Friday, said in an emailed statement: “Experience has shown that quiet diplomacy offers the best chance of finding solutions to these questions. of such a nature. This explains why the IOC will not comment further at this stage.”

Representatives of the Canadian Olympic Committee have previously said that while they understand people’s concerns about the Beijing Olympics, they do not believe a boycott will be effective.

“We share the global sports community’s concern for Peng Shuai and are monitoring the situation closely,” Canadian Olympic Committee Executive Director David Shoemaker said in a statement Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked late Thursday about Peng’s disappearance and whether Canadian athletes should participate in the Beijing Olympics.

“Over the past several months, we have been chatting with our partners and allies around the world about the Beijing Olympics, about our approach,” Trudeau said at the conclusion of a two-day visit to Washington. .

His visit to the US capital included a meeting with Joe Biden in the Oval Office, where the US President confirmed that he was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games next year.

“There are a lot of athletes in Canada and around the world that have been training, very focused on this,” said Trudeau. “We’re looking for a way for both of us to see them showcase their abilities and get all of the hard work they’ve done over the years, while continuing to show their genuine concern.” me towards the way the Chinese government behaves.”

Liz Throssell, a spokesman for the UN human rights office in Geneva, said on Friday it called for “a full transparency investigation into (Peng)’s allegations of sexual assault.”

With files by James McCarten in Washington and The Associated Press.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 19, 2021.

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