Photos, the authenticity of which could not be independently verified, showing a smiling Peng Shuai have surfaced on social media, as international pressure increases on China to obtain information on the comes out of the Chinese player.
Peng Shuai, 35, former world No. 1 in doubles and star in his country, has not come forward publicly since the revelation of a forced sex and an extra-marital relationship with a powerful ex-manager of the Communist Party, 40 years its senior.
The message, briefly posted in early November on the player’s official Weibo account before being censored on the Chinese internet, mentions at least one coerced sexual intercourse.
The fate of Peng Shuai has since been the subject of many questions. Several countries including the United States said Friday « Concerned » and the UN has asked for proof that the player is doing well, as the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai (# WhereestPengShuai) has spread like wildfire on social media.
Four snaps of the tennis champion were posted late Friday by the @shen_shiwei Twitter account, labeled « Media affiliated with the Chinese state » through the social network.
» Have a nice week end «
One photo shows the smiling player 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 snapshot 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 that these photos were posted privately by the player on a social network to wish » have a nice week end » to his contacts.
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 ??? (@shen_shiwei) November 19, 2021
AFP was unable to verify their authenticity and requests for an explanation from the Twitter account that published the photos were immediately unanswered.
Twitter is a blocked social network 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. The Peng Shuai case is censored in the country.