Darren Adam 1am - 4am
Missing tennis player Peng Shuai will make public appearance 'soon', says state media
20 November 2021, 08:54 | Updated: 20 November 2021, 11:30
A Chinese tennis player who has not been seen since making a sexual assault allegation on November 2 is staying "freely" in her own home and will make a public appearance "soon", according to a state media journalist.
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In a series of tweets, Hu Xijin said Ms Shuai did not want to be "disturbed" but said he did not believe she had "received unfair treatment".
"In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed," read one tweet.
"She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon."
In another tweet, he said: "I am confident that the untrue speculations surrounding her will eventually be smashed."
Mr Xijin also said he believed photos shared of Ms Shuai were her "current state", despite widespread questions over their authenticity.
I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai's current state. In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon. https://t.co/VGLt6qoOOh— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) November 20, 2021
The images were posted by journalist Shen Shiwei, who works for the international branch of the government-controlled state broadcaster.
He said they were posted on the 35-year-old's WeChat, and were captioned: "Happy weekend."
But their credibility has been questioned, with some pointing out one of the photos features a framed picture of Winnie the Pooh - a character who is banned in China.
It comes after an email to the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association, claiming to be from Ms Shuai, was published by the broadcaster, saying the sexual assault allegation "is not true" and that she is "resting at home and everything is fine".
The tennis champion accused a former government official of forcing her to have sex with him nearly three weeks ago, and has not been seen publicly since.
In a lengthy social media post - that was quickly deleted - Ms Shuai alleged Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals three years ago.
Tennis champions including Serena Williams and Andy Murray have both campaigned online for her to be found, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
The former president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has questioned whether countries should boycott the Winter Olympics, currently scheduled to take place on Beijing in February 2022.
Speaking to LBC's Andrew Castle, Chris Kermode said the response by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had been "predictably poor".
When asked if it was "right" for the world to participate in the games when a professional athlete was missing in China, Mr Kermode said: "No, it isn't."
He stressed that the current issue "needs to be dealt with" and the Chinese government must be more transparent about the situation.