In early November, Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis champion, accused a former top leader of the country of forcing her to have sex.
Since then, the former world No. 1 in doubles, aged 35, has not given any news or made any public appearance.
The shattering revelations were the first targeting senior Chinese Communist Party officials since the start of the global violence against women movement, #MeToo.
Here is what we know:
On November 2, the player briefly posted on her official Weibo account (a Chinese equivalent of Twitter) a message in which she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who from 2013 to 2018 was one of the seven most powerful politicians in China, for having raped her before making her his mistress. Mr. Zhang, now in his seventies, did not react to these statements.
The champion's message was quickly deleted, but screenshots were taken. These were quickly censored on the Chinese internet and still are. The accusation brought by Peng Shuai was however posted on Twitter - banned in China - which allowed him to know a worldwide echo. In China, the name Peng still appears in internet search results, but her accusations, as well as searches involving the player and Mr. Zhang, do not yield any results.
On Twitter, the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai gained momentum. The world's greatest tennis players have used it to express their concern about him. Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka said she was "
shocked by the situation
Honestly, it's shocking that she disappeared,
” World No. 1 Novak Djokovic also told reporters.
The official response
The official response
The WTA, which operates the women's professional tennis circuit, called for "
a thorough, fair and transparent investigation into the accusations of sexual violence against Peng Shuai
." Earlier this week, WTA boss Steve Simon said "
he has received confirmation from several sources including the Chinese federation that she is safe and not under physical threat
." Asked by AFP, the latter did not wish to make statements on this subject, as did the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
An email, unveiled Wednesday evening on Twitter by the Chinese state channel CGTN, has sown doubt.
It was a screenshot of an email attributed to Peng Shuai which she allegedly sent to the WTA leadership, in which she claims that her accusations "
" and that she is "
Everything is fine.
Thanks again for hearing from me,
”the email concludes.
The content of the message raised doubts as to its authenticity.
For Steve Simon, this only "
reinforces (his) concern