TENNIS star Peng Shuai has been pictured at a juniors’ tennis event in Beijing after she was recently reported missing amid sexual assault allegations.
The 35-year-old recently vanished after she made an allegation of sexual assault against former senior Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
But she has since been pictured signing tennis balls at the opening ceremony of the Junior Tennis Challenger Finals in Beijing.
The former doubles world no. 1 hadn’t been seen since November 3 after releasing a post detailing the allegations on social media.
And a prominent figure within the Chinese state media quickly claimed that Peng Shuai would ‘show up soon’, following public outcry about her disappearance.
The Chinese state media then recently shared an email alleged to be from Shuai claiming that “everything is fine” and that she is “not missing” nor “unsafe”.
But many players, pundits and journalists have cast doubts over its authenticity, as well as the legitimacy of pictures recently posted to her social media account.
Peng is reported to have shared new photos on social media in the last few days surrounded by cuddly toys and wishing fans a “happy weekend”.
The editor-in-chief for the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, the Global Times, Hu Xijin – has claimed the latest snaps are real.
They wrote: “I confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are indeed Peng Shuai’s current state.
“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.”
The former Wimbledon doubles champion was then reportedly filmed having dinner with friends in footage posted on Twitter by Hu Xijin.
In the clip, Peng can be seen sitting with a man and two women but she doesn’t speak.
Meanwhile during the conversation, there are repeated mentions to the date, with the man asking “Tomorrow is the 20th of November right?” while a woman responds “No, it’s November 21st.”
He adds: “We had two matches in the past. But we were not happy with the results.
“The match tomorrow is the conclusion of the nine matches in the past three months.
“The end of November is the end of the year. We must try our best.”
WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said the video is “insufficient” evidence of Peng’s safety.
Simon said: “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,”
“This video alone is insufficient… I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.”
Tennis superstars such as Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have also all expressed their concern for Peng Shuai’s safety and well-being.
Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden remains ‘deeply concerned’ about Peng’s situation and wants China to ‘provide independent, verifiable proof’.