Why Is Andy Murray Tweeting About Tennis Player Peng Shuai?

The top British tennis player joined the online movement #WhereIsPengShuai on Friday.
Andy Murray added his voice to the growing concerns about Peng Shuai's whereabouts
Andy Murray added his voice to the growing concerns about Peng Shuai's whereabouts
Getty

British tennis ace Andy Murray has become one of many stars to ask what has happened to his Chinese peer Peng Shuai in recent days.

What did he say?

On Friday he tweeted: “Female tennis player Peng Shuai whereabouts [are] currently unknown after making sexual abuse allegations against [a] Chinese government official.”

He retweeted a heartfelt speech from Barbora Krejcikova, where she praised the modern day democracy in Czech Republic and Slovakia after the two countries were liberated from communism in the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Peng Shuai’s home country of China is still under communist rule today.

Murray added: “This speech gives us a reminder and some hope that things can change in the future. #WhereIsPengShuai.”

Why is everyone talking about Peng Shuai?

Peng, a 35-year-old tennis star who was the doubles champion in the 2013 Wimbledon tournament and during the French Open in 2014, caused a stir when she shared a social media post on November 2.

She alleged that a ex-top government official forced her to have sex with him after playing tennis at his home three years ago.

Peng acknowledged in her post that she would not be able to provide evidence to support her claims, but her allegation has become the most high-profile to date within China’s budding #MeToo movement.

It’s worth noting this is the first time any such claim has been made against one of the country’s primary political leaders.

What happened after she posted her allegation?

Her post on the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, Weibo, has now been removed.

The international branch of China’s government-controlled state broadcaster released an email on Wednesday reportedly from Peng, where she withdraws her accusations – but there are doubts over whether it truly came from the tennis star.

Peng appears to say her allegations were “not true”, and that she is “not missing nor am I unsafe”.

The email concludes: “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”

Why are people dubious over this follow-up email?

The head of the Women’s Tennis Association Steve Simon said the email only “raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts”, and expressed doubt that she had actually written the email.

He added: “Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assaults against former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli.

“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 communication, to no avail.”

He added that he was even rethinking future WTA events in China unless the situation was resolved, telling CNN: “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored.”

Amnesty International, human rights organisation, also acknowledged that China has a “track record of forcing statements out of individuals under duress or else simply fabricating them”.

It added that China must prove Peng is safe and go on to investigate her allegations.

Has China commented?

China’s foreign ministry claimed on Friday that it was not aware she was missing, and its ministry spokesperson told reporters her absence was “not a diplomatic question”.

The accused, Zhang, has not publicly responded. He was China’s vice-premier for five years between 2013 and 2018 and was a close political ally of the current leader, President Xi Jinping.

The International Olympic Committee has been asked to comment as well, as China is expected to host next year’s Winter Olympics.

It said: “Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature.”

Who else has discussed the missing tennis star?

Japan’s four-time champion Naomi Osaka tweeted about the incident, explaining: “Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK.

“I’m in shock at the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way. #WhereIsPengShuai.”

US tennis superstar, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, Serena Williams has expressed her concerns, urging the public “not to stay silent” about Peng’s welfare.

Men’s world number one, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was also asked about the Chinese tennis star’s disappearance earlier this week and described it as “shocking”.