Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai denies accusing anyone of sexual assault in Zaobao's interview

She also said that her letter to Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) President Steve Simon had been written of "her own free will."

Lean Jinghui | December 20, 2021, 06:36 PM

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In an exclusive interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on Dec. 19, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied that she had ever accused anyone of sexually assaulting her.

This is the first time Peng addressed the matter on camera in public.

The 35-year-old also clarified that an earlier letter in November 2021 to Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) President Steve Simon had been written entirely by her, and been of "her own free will."

The six-minute long interview took place at the International Ski Federation's cross-country skiing competition in Shanghai on Dec. 19, where Peng was seen alongside former NBA basketball star Yao Ming, retired table tennis player Wang Liqin, and Olympic sailing champion Xu Lijia.

You can view the full video interview by Zaobao here:

What happened in video

In the video, Peng is seen dressed casually – in a red T-shirt with the words "China" on it, black pants, white sneakers and a dark down jacket, also with the words "China" emblazoned behind it.

She appears to be approached as she is leaving a viewing balcony, alongside Yao Ming and friends.

Here's a point-by-point (translated) summary of the conversation that transpired:

Where did you come from?

Beijing. I came over from Beijing.

Are you still living at home?

Yes, I have always been living at home in Beijing.

Have you been free to come and go as you please? A lot of people have been concerned about your safety. Is there anyone surveilling you?

Why would there be any surveillance? I have always been quite free.

Because well last month, you published a post on Weibo, which carried some allegations, and last month, CGTN also published an English letter that you had purportedly written to the WTA President claiming the sexual assault claims you'd made are not true. Was this letter written by you?

There are a few questions here.

First of all, I would like to emphasise a very important point: I have never said nor written about anyone sexually assaulting me. I would like to emphasise this point very clearly.

Regarding the Weibo post, that's a matter related to my privacy. I think that perhaps everyone has had many misunderstandings, but there should not be any distorted interpretations.

On what you asked about the WTA news, the Chinese version of the letter in reply to Simon was written entirely by me.

My level of proficiency for English was not good enough to translate that letter.

So the Chinese version was written entirely by me, and the CGTN English version is the translated one.

But there is no difference in meaning to the one I wrote to Simon personally.

Was the Chinese version of the letter to Simon written entirely of your own free will?

Yes, it was entirely of my own free will.

After that, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also did some video calls with you. Do you remember when you had those video calls?

I don't remember when they were, but I want to thank IOC head Thomas Bach, Emma Terho of the IOC, and Director Li for the call. I was glad to interact with them.

Did you do the video calls at home in Beijing?


Do you have plans to travel overseas? Or go elsewhere, like coming to Shanghai for today's ski-ing competition?

We are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and I'm not competing at the moment. I think if it's for usual activities like watching competitions in the future, I'll attend as per normal.

It can't be that I just go because I need to prove something. What can I do if I travel abroad now anyway?

What do you normally do in Beijing these days then, in your spare time?

I think I'll leave this to next time to share.

Netizens speculate

The video has since garnered over 15,000 views in 19 hours.

Following its publication, many netizens have continued to speculate about the well-being of Peng, with some commenting that Peng's behaviour looked involuntary.

One commenter even alleged that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must have told her what to do and say.

Via Lianhe Zaobao Facebook

Others also questioned her point on privacy, as they noted that she had shared news of the alleged sexual assault on her social media first; it had not been a case where her privacy had been infringed upon.

Via Lianhe Zaobao Facebook

WTA's response

In response to Peng's latest appearance, WTA said that it's good to see her in public again but it does not "alleviate or address" the organisation's "significant concerns" about her well-being.

"We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern," WTA added.


Peng made headlines in Nov. 2021, after taking to Chinese social media site Weibo to accuse former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

She claimed the sexual assault had happened during years of an on-and-off extra-marital relationship.

Her post was censored "within minutes", and Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian later claimed that he had not heard of Peng's sexual assault allegations against the former vice premier.

Peng subsequently disappeared from public view after her Weibo post, which also sparked widespread international concern.

At the end of Nov. 2021, Chinese state media CGTN published an English letter that was purportedly from Peng, to WTA President Simon, which shared that she was "not missing", and refuted her prior allegations as "not true" and had been released without her consent.

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Top images via Lianhe Zaobao Facebook