The head of the WTA Tour said that sexual-assault allegations made by a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion from China who has reportedly gone missing “must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.”
In a lengthy social media post that disappeared quickly, former No. 1-ranked doubles player Peng Shuai wrote that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex three years ago.
Her post, which was removed from her Chinese Wiebo account, also said they had sex once seven years ago and that she had feelings for him after that.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement released Sunday.
“In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected. We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.”
The accusation by Peng — who won 23 tour-level doubles titles, including Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014 — was the first against a prominent government official since the #MeToo movement took hold in China in 2018.
In the post, the 35-year-old wrote that Zhang, 75, and his wife arranged to play tennis in Beijing about three years ago and that he later brought her into a room at his home where the assault occurred.
“I was so frightened that afternoon, never thinking that this thing could happen,” the post read.
The release of Simon’s statement followed widespread criticism of the WTA’s silence as fans and players — including 18-time Grand Slam winner Chris Evert — rallied online around the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
“Yes, these accusations are very disturbing,” Evert said in a tweet Sunday. “I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated.”
French player Nicolas Mahut said in a tweet that “the fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned.”
With Post wires