Chinese state media posted a video on Saturday showing tennis star Peng Shuai smiling and well, as international pressure mounts for information about his whereabouts as he accused a former deputy prime minister of having sex. accused of coercion.
In one of two videos posted to Twitter by Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the Global Times newspaper, the 35-year-old is walking into a restaurant wearing a coat, knit hat and face mask.
In another video clip, two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Peng is seen sitting at a table interacting with people during a meal.
AFP could not confirm the authenticity of the video.
Hu wrote in English on Twitter that the second video shows “Peng Shuai having dinner at a restaurant with her coach and friends. The video content clearly shows they were shot on Saturday Beijing time.”
The conversation revolved around a “tennis match” and a man sitting next to Peng and two other women says, “Tomorrow is November 20th.”
But one of the women quickly interrupts him to say, “It’s the 21st” or Sunday.
The chat appears to have been staged. It was filmed on a mobile phone in the evening. In the footage, Peng is seen resting.
– ‘Inadequate’ –
Peng has not been seen publicly alleging earlier this month that former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli, now in his 70s, “forced” him to have sex during a relationship that lasted several years. did.
The claims on Chinese social media site Weibo were quickly removed from platforms such as Twitter, and Peng’s whereabouts have remained a mystery ever since.
In the new video, Women’s Tennis Association boss Steve Simon said that while he was “happy” to see the images, “it is not clear whether she is independent and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion.” or outside interference”.
“This video alone is not enough,” Simon said in a statement. “I am clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
– ‘Independent, verifiable evidence’ –
A growing number of voices in the sports world and beyond – including the US government and the United Nations – want to know where and how Peng is.
Pictures of Peng smiling surfaced late Friday on a Chinese state-affiliated Twitter account, but their authenticity also could not be verified and the user did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.
The four undated photos were posted by the Twitter account @shen_shiwei, which was labeled by the social network as “Chinese state-affiliated media”.
One image shows a smiling Peng holding a cat in his arms, with stuffed animals, a trophy and a Chinese flag in the background.
Another picture has an image of Winnie the Pooh in the background. Children’s characters in China are often censored online because critics say Chinese leader Xi Jinping resembles cartoons.
After the photos surfaced, Hu tweeted in English: “Over the past few days, she has been living freely in her home and doesn’t want to be disturbed. She will be appearing in public and participating in some activities soon “
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration wants China to provide “independent, verifiable evidence” of Peng’s whereabouts and expressed “deep concern” about the former top doubles player.
The UN has called for a completely transparent investigation into Peng’s claims against Gaoli – the first time China’s #MeToo movement has touched the highest echelons of the country’s Communist Party.
“It will be important to have proof of his whereabouts and well-being,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throsel told reporters in Geneva.
“We are demanding a thorough investigation into her sexual harassment allegations.”
The latest to weigh in was tennis great Roger Federer, who said Saturday on Sky News: “He’s one of our tennis champions, a former world number one. Clearly it’s relatable. I hope he’s safe.” “
China has repeatedly declined to comment on the matter.
– Unverified photos come out –
Earlier this week, state-run CGTN published a screenshot on Twitter that it said was an email written by Peng to the WTA, which has threatened to terminate the lucrative contract with China unless it Words can’t get over that Peng is safe and well.
In it, Peng claims that her earlier allegations are “not true” and that she is “resting at home and all is well”.
But doubts were raised about the strange language and cursor seen in the screenshot.
Peng represented China at the Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics and won a gold medal for China at the 2010 Asian Games.
She is a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)