Wimbledon join calls for Peng Shuai’s safety to be confirmed

22 Nov 2021 | 07:24 | News

Wimbledon has joined the calls for Peng Shuai’s safety to be confirmed, saying the club has been working behind the scenes on the issue.

The chorus of concern for the welfare of the Chinese player, who has not been heard from directly for more than fortnight, has been amplified as far as the United Nations and the White House.

Peng, a former world number one in doubles and Wimbledon champion alongside Hsieh Su-wei in 2013, made allegations of sexual assault against a former vice-premier in China on the social media site Weibo.

Wimbledon said in a statement: “We are united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe. We have been working in support of the WTA’s efforts to establish her safety through our relationships behind the scenes.

“Along with the global tennis community, we would like Peng Shuai to know that her wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us, and we will continue to work to gain clarity on her safety.”

Wimbledon signed its first sponsorship deal with a Chinese company in 2019, making the mobile phone company Oppo one of its official partners.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday: “We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former PRC (People’s Republic of China) senior official of sexual assaults.

The White House has joined calls for news of Chinese player Peng Shuai (Nigel French/PA)

“We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe.”

Liz Throssell, the spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office, echoed those concerns and called for an investigation “with full transparency” into Peng’s allegations.

Throssell told reporters: “(Peng) hasn’t been heard from publicly since she alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted.

Peng Shuai is apparently missing after accusing a Chinese official of sexual assault (Andy Brownhill/AP)

“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault.”

The Women’s Tennis Association has threatened to pull out of the lucrative Chinese part of its tour next season unless it is proved that Peng is safe.

WTA chairman Steve Simon told the BBC: “We cannot stand by compromises. This is a right and wrong issue.”

Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic backed that stance following his win over Cameron Norrie at the ATP Finals in Turin on Friday.

He said: “It’s important because this is horrifying. I mean, a person is missing.

“China is a huge country. It’s a very important part of the world especially for the WTA. They have many tournaments there. I mean, this is necessary for us to take whatever action.

“I heard just now that the WTA is willing to pull out from China with all the tournaments unless this is resolved. I support it 100 per cent.”