Amid growing international attention to his plight, Chinese state media suddenly posted an email he said Peng had written to Women’s Tennis Association President Steve Simon.
The letter, the authenticity of which could not be verified, claimed that Peng was resting at home and never authorized the publication of the original “false” statement on Weibo.
But in a statement on Thursday, Simon said Peng’s alleged letter only made him more worried about his safety.
“I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is attributed to him,” he said.
He called for “independent and verifiable evidence” of his safety and a full investigation into his allegations.
“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source,” Simon said. “His allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated transparently and without censorship.”
Simon told CNN that the WTA was ready to stop doing business with China, and therefore lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, if Peng was not considered.
“It’s bigger than the business,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Women’s Sports Foundation, an American non-profit organization founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, told BuzzFeed News it supports the WTA’s position.
“We are deeply concerned and disturbed by the disappearance of Peng Shuai and his allegations of sexual assault,” the spokesperson said. “We support the WTA’s demands for verifiable proof of its safety and that its allegations are respected and investigated in full transparency.”
But the letter was apparently enough for the International Olympic Committee, which remained silent on the disappearance of a three-time Olympian.
“We have seen the latest reports and are encouraged by the assurances that she is safe,” an IOC spokesperson said Thursday.
This lukewarm statement was criticized as irresponsible by large sections of Western media and non-governmental organizations.
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