Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has been staying at home "freely" and will make a public appearance "soon," Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, a prominent state-media journalist, said Saturday.
Former doubles world No. 1 Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she said on Chinese social media on Nov. 2 that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on her allegation. Peng's social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.
"In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon," Hu wrote on Twitter.
The Global Times is published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party.
Hu said he had confirmed through his sources that photos shared on Twitter by a journalist working for Chinese state media, purportedly showing Peng at home, depicted her "current state."
Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the pictures independently.
Amid growing concern about her whereabouts, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to pull tournaments out of China and the men's ATP has demanded clarity from the Chinese authorities. The United States has called for proof of Peng's whereabouts and safety.
The International Olympic Committee could be pushed into taking a hard line with the 2022 Beijing Olympic hosts, senior IOC member Dick Pound has told Reuters.
Thus far the IOC has declined to comment, saying it believed "quiet diplomacy" offered the best opportunity for a solution.
The IOC's Athletes Commission, made up of athletes elected by their peers, said it was "very concerned" for Peng and hoped contact with her and fellow athletes could be established soon.
Wimbledon organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club wrote in a statement: "We are united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe. We have been working in support of the WTA's efforts to establish her safety through our relationships behind the scenes."
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