In November 2021, former world number one doubles player Peng Shuai posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by high-ranking Chinese politician Zhang Gaoli. The post was almost immediately taken down, and Peng was not seen or heard from for at least two weeks.
The tennis community began spreading awareness about Peng's disappearance. Before too long, #whereispengshuai began trending on Twitter, and politicians around the globe called for her safety. President Joe Biden even echoed the concerns. International pressure intensified as China prepared to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
In December 2021, the WTA announced that it would suspend all tournaments in China until they received sufficient assurances that Peng Shuai was free and safe. At the time, many lauded the WTA for taking a stand against China.
WTA suspension due to Peng Shuai's disappearance and the Olympics
During the Olympics, Peng Shuai emerged and allegedly spoke with the president of the International Olympic Committee. In what has been described as a "controlled" interview, Peng then sat down and spoke publicly about her post and disappearance. Peng told the interviewer that she never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her and that there were great misunderstandings about her whereabouts and well-being. Many were not convinced by the interview and believed Peng could not speak freely. In a subsequent interview, Peng announced her retirement from tennis.
In April 2023, the WTA decided to lift its suspension on China, claiming that it was in the best interest of the players to do so. However, many argue that the WTA lifted the suspension for monetary reasons, as the Chinese market is massive for women's tennis.
Peng Shuai 's current whereabouts unknown
On January 8, 2024, Peng Shuai turned 38. Her whereabouts are unknown. The public does not know if she is free, healthy, or even alive. A former world number one and two-time major champion appears to have been disappeared by her own government, and the tennis world appears to have gone silent on the issue.