VIDEO. Disappearance of Peng Shuai: new images of the Chinese tenniswoman on the Internet sow confusion

the essential Photos posted on Friday night to Saturday 20 November, videos at the restaurant on Saturday evening … The various appearances in recent hours do not reassure the international community as to the fate of the ex-champion, who has not appeared publicly for several weeks, after revealing an extramarital affair with a powerful ex-Communist Party official whom she accuses of rape.

Two videos and snapshots: a smiling Peng Shuai appeared on social media on Saturday evening, as international pressure increases on China to obtain information on the fate of the Chinese player.

Peng Shuai, 21 years old, former world No. 1 in doubles and star in his country, has not come forward publicly since she accused Zhang Gaoli, a powerful ex-Communist Party official 35 years her senior, of coercing her into having sex.

In that initial message, briefly posted in early November on the player’s official Weibo account before being censored on the Chinese internet, an upset sentimental relationship with married Mr. Zhang was described before he rose to high ground. functions.

In this writing attributed to Peng Shuai but whose authenticity AFP could not verify, the player explained that Zhang Gaoli had resumed contact with her when he retired in 2018. A “forced” sexual intercourse is mentioned.

Since these statements, the fate of Peng Shuai has been the subject of many questions. “In recent days, she has stayed at home in complete freedom and did not want to be disturbed,” Hu Xijin, influential editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a Chinese daily with a decidedly nationalist tone, said on Saturday.

Peng Shuai “will be showing up in public soon,” he wrote in English at midday (Beijing time) on Twitter, blocked in China.

Mr. Hu, who claims a certain closeness to power, in the evening posted two videos of the player “having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant” in Beijing and filmed the same day, according to him.

AFP was unable to confirm the location or the conditions in which the footage was shot. And Hu Xijin made no reference to it on his Weibo account in Chinese.

Dinner and conviviality

In the images, Peng Shuai is surrounded by two women with whom she shares a meal and wine in a noisy place. A man is seated opposite the player and the conversation is about “matches”.

“Tomorrow is 19 November” (Saturday), he said, before being interrupted by one of the guests: “It’s 20” (tomorrow Sunday).

I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time. pic.twitter.com/HxuwB5TfBk

— Hu Xijin 胡锡 进 (@HuXijin_GT) November 20, 2021

The exchange, which seems to be staged, is filmed in the evening on a cell phone by an unidentified person. Peng Shuai appears relaxed. Several countries, including the United States and France, have said they are “concerned” about the fate of the Chinese player.

And on Friday, the UN asked for proof that she is doing well, as the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai (# WhereestPengShuai) spread like wildfire on social media.

Four allegedly recent snapshots of the tennis champion were subsequently published by the Twitter account @shen_shiwei, labeled “media affiliated with the Chinese state” by the social network.

Peng Shuai’s WeChat moments just posted three latest photos and said “Happy weekend”.

Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments. pic.twitter.com/tut8CEH6gu

— Shen Shiwei 沈 诗 伟 (@shen_shiwei) November 19, 2021

AFP was unable to independently establish when these photos were taken and requests for an explanation from the author of the account went unanswered.

One of the pictures shows the player smiling with a cat in her arms in what appears to be her home. In the background, soft toys, a trophy, a Chinese flag and accreditations are visible.

Another photo shows a selfie of Peng Shuai with a Kung Fu panda figure, an animated film for children. In the background appears a frame with a picture of Winnie the Pooh.

The Twitter account in question claims in English that these photos were posted privately by the player on a social network to wish “good weekend” to your contacts.

Perplexity

Twitter is blocked in China and only people with VPN-like bypass software can access it.

In recent years, however, many Chinese diplomats and official media have created accounts there to defend, sometimes doggedly, China’s point of view.

On Wednesday already, Chinese public television CGTN had caused trouble, by revealing a screenshot of an email attributed to Peng Shuai.

The channel aimed at a foreign audience claimed that the Chinese player had personally sent it to the management of the WTA, which manages the women’s professional tennis circuit.

On CNN, her boss Steve Simon on Thursday expressed his perplexity over the message in which the champion declared her accusations against Zhang Gaoli “false”.

“I do not believe at all that this is the truth,” said Mr. Simon, calling the email in question “staged”.

The Peng Shuai affair is censored in China and the player’s entourage declined to comment.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, who was from 2013 to 2018 one of the seven most powerful politicians in China, has never publicly reacted to the accusations.

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