BEIJING – A Chinese state TV employee has posted photos of a missing tennis player Peng Shuai online to allay concerns about its demise after criticizing a senior rape leader.
The images appeared Friday on Twitter, which may not be visible to most Internet users in China. State TV presenter Shen Shiwei wrote that he was on Peng’s account on the WeChat messaging service with the comment, “Happy Weekend.”
The ruling Communist Party is facing increasing demands from tennis experts and the travel experts of the sport to ensure that Peng, a three-time Olympian runner and former No. 1, is safe and able to speak freely.
Meanwhile, the editor of a newspaper published by the party said Peng would “appear in public” soon.
The dispute is politically motivated as China’s capital plans to host the Winter Olympics in February. A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday denied knowing Peng’s whereabouts.
Peng, 35, has not appeared in public since he posted a statement on television this month criticizing Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the party’s standing committee, a powerful ruling party, for forcing him to have sex despite repeated denials.
Shen works for CGTN, a Chinese Central Television-based English-language watchdog group. His Twitter account came to CGTN this week after it published a statement claiming to have come from Peng that dismissed Zhang’s allegations.
The editor of Global Times, an English-language newspaper published by the Communist Party, said on Twitter that he had confirmed from sources anonymous that the images were “true of Peng Shuai.”
Editor Hu Xijin writes: “Several days ago, he lived in his own house and did not want to be disturbed. “He will appear in public and participate in other activities soon.”
The pictures show Peng with a gray cat and a statue of a panda in a house that looked like an isolated house full of animals. There was no indication when the photos were taken.
The chairman and chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon, on Wednesday doubted whether CGTN’s findings would be released. Simon said: “It only adds to my anxiety about his safety.”