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  1. The Explainer
19 November 2021

Where is Peng Shuai?

The troubling disappearance of the tennis star.

By Sarah Manavis

The disappearance of Peng Shuai has made headlines around the world this week. The Chinese tennis star has not been seen in more than a fortnight. So what happened to her, and where is she?

Who is Peng Shuai?

Shuai, 35, is a Chinese tennis professional, who is best known for her success as a doubles player. She has won two Grand Slams in doubles, Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, and is a previous doubles World No 1. She was the first Chinese player (male or female) to achieve this ranking. 

What happened to her?

On 2 November, Shuai put out a statement on China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, accusing the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, saying he had “forced” her into sexual relations with him. Within 20 minutes of her sharing the post, though, it had disappeared.

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Where is she now?

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Her whereabouts are unclear – Shuai hasn’t been seen in public since the allegation was made more than two weeks ago. On Wednesday (17 November), an email claiming to be from Peng Shuai was sent to Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chairman and CEO Steve Simon, that was simultaneously released by Chinese state media outlet, CGTN, saying that she was “just resting at home and everything is fine”. However, Simon said in an official WTA statement that he had a “hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email” or that Shuai “believes what is being attributed to her”.

What is the world doing to help?

Her disappearance has led to a global campaign to uncover her whereabouts, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai. Other professional tennis players including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Stan Wawrinka have also voiced their concern about her safety and the need to find her. The WTA has now threatened to pull hundreds of millions of dollars of business out of China if Shuai is not found and if her claims are not fully investigated.