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Peng Shuai: The Timeline of the Chinese Tennis Star’s Disappearance and ‘Comeback’ After Global Outcry

Peng Shuai has become one of the most searched names in Google over the past few weeks, unfortunately not for her tennis. At the beginning of this month, the 35-year-old had alleged that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, now in his 70s, “forced” her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years, after which she was not seen publicly for more than a fortnight. She had revealed this on the Chinese social media site Weibo, but her post was deleted within hours.

Following a global outcry, including tennis superstars and the United Nations, Chinese state media reporters have released a flurry of footage purporting to show that all is well with Peng. 

Several fellow tennis stars have also taken to social media to raise voices against many who have spoken about the entire episode on various post-match and other interviews. Tennis great Roger Federer voiced concern on Saturday for missing Chinese player Peng Shuai.

November 2: Shuai Alleges Sexual Assault

The two-time Grand Slam champion alleges that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli “forced” her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years.

November 14: WTA Requests Investigation

In a statement, WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon requests a “full, fair and transparent” investigation into Peng’s allegations. Simon threatened to pull the WTA’s business from China if the country failed to investigate Peng’s allegations properly. 

November 15: China Stays Silent

It was the 13th day since her allegation and her disappearance. Still, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan said, “this is not a diplomatic question” when asked about Peng’s allegations, and he had “not heard of the issue.”

November 17: Veracity of Peng’s Mail to WTA Questioned

A fortnight after her Weibo post, in her first “official” statement, Peng claimed that the WTA did not get her consent or verification before releasing its statement. However, the authenticity of the mail was itself questioned.

November 17: Naomi Osaka Raises Concerns

Naomi Osaka, one of the biggest names in tennis, raises concerns about her peer. Many other tennis stars also follow suit.

November 18: WTA Threatens to Pull Chinese Business

“..this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.” WTA says they are willing to pull business and deal with all the complications that come with it. China hosted 19 WTA tournaments in 2019 alone for a total of USD 30.4 million prize money. Shenzhen is slated to host the WTA Finals from 2022-2030.

November 18: Serena Williams Joins the Conversation

“This must be investigated, and we must not stay silent.” Serena Williams tweets regarding the disappearance of Peng Shuai and demands investigation.

November 19: UN Spokesperson Calls for Investigation

Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the United Nations human rights office in Geneva, said that the situation called for “an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault.” China, on the other hand, continued to stay silent.

The White House broke its silence on Peng’s situation by demanding proof of her safety and condemning China’s censorship.

November 20: Peng Shuai’s Footage Surfaces

Chinese state media on Saturday, 18 days after Peng Shuai’sShuai’s disappearance, releases the tennis star’s footage. Three pictures we shared in the Chinese social-media platform WeChat.

November 21: Two More Videos of Peng Shuai Released

Chinese state media posted videos Sunday purporting to show former world number one, Peng Shuai smiling at an “opening ceremony of a teenager tennis match final”.

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