New Delhi, November 15: A growing movement including Chinese feminist groups and international tennis stars is raising concern over the whereabouts of the former Chinese doubles pro Peng Shuai after she accused a senior government figure of sexual assault, The Guardian reported. Peng, one of China's biggest sporting stars, has not been publicly heard from since a Weibo post on November 2, in which she alleged that the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and that they had an intermittent affair, the report said.

The post was taken down by China's censors but still went viral. Subsequent posts and reactions, even keywords such as "tennis", also appeared to be blocked, and numerous references to Peng were scrubbed from China's internet. Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has sought a "full, fair and transparent investigation" into sexual assault allegations against former Chinese leader. Zhang Zhan, Jailed Journalist, Close to Death Due to Hunger Strikes in Chinese Prison.

Steve Simon, WTA Chairman & CEO said, "The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern. As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on - equality, opportunity and respect".

Simon said Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. "Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness", the statement said.

Peng's Weibo account is active, but has no mention of Zhang and comments appear to have been disabled. An attempt by the Guardian prompted an error message that the content contained information that violates relevant laws and regulations, the report said. Amid growing concern over her whereabouts, Chinese activists projected text on to undisclosed sites, saying "where is Peng Shuai?" and "we demand Peng Shuai's safe return".

International tennis players also spoke out online. The former world singles No 1 Chris Evert said the accusations made by Peng were "disturbing", the report added. "I've known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned," Evert wrote on Twitter. "This is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated." "The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA's problem," said the French former doubles No 1 Nicolas Mahut. "We are all concerned."

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 15, 2021 11:13 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website