Serena Williams has added her voice to the campaign to locate Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.
Peng hasn't been seen publicly, or heard from officially, since making an accusation of sexual assault against an ex-Chinese State official earlier this month.
On Wednesday, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon voiced his concern over Peng's safety, after receiving an email claiming to be from her which was shared via Chinese state media.
The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.
"Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source," said Simon.
"Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship."
Peng made the claim of sexual misconduct against Zhang Gaoli - one time a prominent member of the China's Politburo Standing Committee - on November 2. Half an hour after the post went live on social media outlet, Weibo, it was taken down.
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021
The former doubles champion at Wimbledon and Roland-Garros has not been seen or heard from since.
"I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai," tweeted Serena Williams.
"I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible.
"This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai"
Indeed, the whereispengshuai hashtag has been officially adopted by the WTA in a Twitter post on Thursday evening.
Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic had already gone public with their concerns for the former world doubles no.1
The calls for Peng's safe return have also started coming from politicians. Indiana Congressman, Jim Banks, has written to President Joe Biden seeking his intervention in the matter.
"Since your administration has been engaging in intense high-level dialogue with Chinese officials," Banks wrote, "I would like to urge you to raise to your Chinese counterparts in such interactions the issue of Peng Shuai's safety and whereabouts and demand Chinese authorities to lift censorship and re-post Peng Shuai's social media message that has been taken down.
U.S. Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana has written to President Joe Biden about the disappearance of Peng Shuai, urging his administration to pressure China on this issue.
Letter below: pic.twitter.com/RWJc9osRkv
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 18, 2021
"I would further ask you to suspend any high-level dialogues with China until China responds satisfactorily to our inquiries about Peng Shuai's safety.
"I also urge you to warn the Chinese authorities that China's silencing and abusing Peng Shuai, if not handled properly, will have a negative impact on China hosting the Winter Olympics of 2022, and will only exacerbate the movement to boycott the games."
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