Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai denies ever accusing China’s former deputy prime minister of sexual violence

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has denied that he has ever accused anyone of sexual assault. He confirmed that he deleted his social media post in November that appeared to make such a claim.

The plight of Peng, a three-time Olympic athlete, raised concerns around the world when he took to social media to say China’s former vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually abused him in the past.

In an interview with a French newspaper L’Equipe at a hotel in Beijing, Peng denied he had made any such accusations.

“In the texts we can see in Europe, you accuse someone of sexual assault. What are you actually writing about? We don’t understand,” the newspaper asked.

“Sexual violence? I never said anyone sexually assaulted me in any way,” Peng said, without elaborating.

In a now-deleted post on Weibo – a platform in China similar to Twitter -, Peng wrote “why did you take me to your house and force me to have a relationship with you?” He also described his relationship with Zhang as an intermittent one. it’s also consensual.

The post led the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend tournaments in China and caused international outcry about her safety.

Peng told French newspapers that his social media posts had caused a “major misunderstanding”, repeating comments reported by a Singapore media outlet in December, and that he did not want “further media hype” about it.

“I would like to say that feelings, sports and politics are three very different things. The issue of my love life, my personal life should not be mixed with sports and politics,” he said.

“And sport should not be politicized because when it does, most of the time it means turning the Olympic spirit upside down and it goes against the wishes of the sporting world and the athletes.” [ah/rs]