The United Kingdom is concerned for the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who temporarily disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of sexual assault, and demands that Beijing allow her to speak out without fear of repercussions, the country's foreign ministry told RIA Novosti.
"We are extremely concerned at the apparent disappearance of Peng Shuai, and are following the case closely. The Chinese authorities should urgently provide verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts. Everyone should be allowed to speak out without fear of repercussions. All reports of sexual assault, anywhere in the world, should be investigated," the ministry said.
Peng disappeared from public view after publishing on November 2 a statement on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, accusing the former Chinese vice-premier, 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, of sexually assaulting her. The post was immediately deleted, Peng's accounts were removed from the Chinese social networks and the athlete stopped communicating, raising concerns for her safety.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have demanded that Beijing provide verifiable evidence of Peng's safety and whereabouts. The global tennis community also joined the demands and called for a full and impartial investigation into the allegations of sexual assault against the former vice-premier.
On Sunday, the tennis star finally appeared in public for the first time in several weeks at the opening ceremony of a teenage tennis match final in Beijing. She later had a video call with Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, confirming she was safe and well.
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