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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday November 17, 2021

A dubious statement by Chinese state-run media regarding Peng Shuai has elicited a firm response from WTA CEO Steve Simon.

Tennis Express

Peng accused a high-ranking Chinese government official of sexual assault in a social media post on November 2, which led to a deletion of the post in the ensuing 30 minutes. Since then general concern for Peng has emerged – not just for her freedom of speech or right to an investigation, but for her actual whereabouts.

Concern that she had disappeared abated earlier this week when Simon told the New York Times that he had been assured by reliable sources that Peng was fine, and in Beijing.

Today’s post from Chinese state-run media has changed that perception some, however.

In it the claim was made that Peng had sent a letter to the WTA which read: "Regarding the recent news released by the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without consent. The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe."

It did not take long for the WTA to reply with a statement from Simon. The CEO confirmed that he did receive the email from Peng, but that he does not believe it is from her:

"The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” he wrote. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communications, to no avail."

“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to."

Simon’s quick reply is proof that he meant what he said when he was quoted by Chris Clarey of the New York Times as saying “If at the end of the day, we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to.”