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Peng Shuai has denied making allegations of sexual assault in her first media interview since concerns over her welfare began.
Speaking to Singapore newspaper Lianhe Zaobao at a skiing event in Shanghai, Peng denied that she was under surveillance or restricted as to her movements.
The situation faced by former world doubles number one Peng has been under the international spotlight since she posted a lengthy message on the Chinese social media network Weibo on November 2 regarding her relationship with former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and then disappeared from view.
"With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong."
— wta (@WTA) December 1, 2021
In the post, which was quickly removed, Peng said she had been forced to have sex with Zhang, with whom she had also had a consensual relationship.
Peng told Lianhe Zaobao: “Firstly I want to emphasise one point that is really important. I never said or wrote that I was sexually assaulted.
“Regarding my Weibo post, it entirely concerns problems in my own private life. And I think that everyone has a lot of misunderstandings of what happened. All those twisted misinterpretations are simply not true.”
WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon has led an extremely strong response having failed to make contact with Peng in a way that he was confident was free from censorship.
Earlier this month, the WTA announced it was suspending tournaments in China, which has become its biggest market in recent years but has not held any events for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Peng insisted during the on-camera interview that she wrote an email to Simon that he has expressed serious doubts over and, asked whether she was free from surveillance, said: “Why would there be someone keeping watch on me? I’ve always been very free.”
The International Olympic Committee has held two calls with Peng but has not released any footage.