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Peng Shuai retires from tennis, denies sexual assault

Peng claims she 'never disappeared,' deleted Weibo post because she 'wanted to'

Peng Shuai (left), Zhang Gaoli. (Reuters photos)

Peng Shuai (left), Zhang Gaoli. (Reuters photos)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A French newspaper on Monday (Feb. 7) published an interview with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (彭帥) in which she announced that she was retiring from professional tennis, denied she had accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and claimed that she had "never disappeared."

On her official Weibo account on Nov. 2, Peng alleged that she had been coerced into having sex by former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli (張高麗) before becoming his mistress. The post was quickly scrubbed from the Chinese internet, and Peng was not seen or heard from for over two weeks before later surfacing at staged public events in Beijing and Shanghai.

The French sports paper L'Equipe on Monday published an interview with Peng, the first of its kind with an independent international media outlet since the Weibo post. The terms of the interview were that the questions be submitted in advance, that a Chinese Olympic Committee official be present and translate, and that her comments be published verbatim.

During the interview, Peng said, "I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way." She claimed that there had been a "huge misunderstanding in the outside world" after her Weibo post and said that she wanted its meaning to "no longer be skewed."

Peng said that she had deleted the post simply because she "wanted to." According to Peng, she had "never disappeared," and her life since uploading the controversial post has been "nothing special."

When asked if she had gotten in trouble with Chinese authorities over her post, Peng responded in vague terms: “I want to say first of all that feelings, sport, and politics are three clearly separate things." She then added, "My love life problems, my personal life, must not be mingled with sports and politics."