The disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has shocked the world - but according to a prominent state-media journalist - she’s been staying at home "freely" and will make a public appearance "soon.”
Former doubles world number one Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she said on Chinese social media on Nov. 2 that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
But on Saturday, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin in a tweet referring to Peng wrote: "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.”
The Global Times is published by the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, the People's Daily.
Hu said he had confirmed through his sources that photos shared on Twitter by a journalist working for Chinese state media, purportedly showing Peng at home, depicted her "current state."
He also posted a video later on Saturday that appeared to show Peng at a restaurant.
Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the pictures or video independently.
In a statement Women's Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon said: "While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.” Adding, “I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."
Djokavic: "It's horrifying."
Tennis star Novak Djokavic backed the WTA’s threat to pull tournaments out of China:
"The whole community, tennis community, needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she's safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on the Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange.”
Other top players of the sport, including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, have tweeted #WhereIsPengShuai.
And Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in interviews expressed their concern and their hope to see her back soon.
Neither former vice-premier Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on Peng's allegation.
Her social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.