Pictures of missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted online

A Chinese state TV employee has posted pictures of missing tennis star Peng Shuai online in a fresh attempt to allay concern about her disappearance after she accused a prominent leader of sexual assault.

The photos appeared on Twitter on Friday, and most Chinese netizens can’t see them. Government TV employee, Shen Xuyi, wrote that they were both on the WeChat messaging service Peng’s account with the caption, “Happy Weekend.”

The ruling Communist Party is facing mounting calls from tennis and professional sports stars to prove that Ping, the three-time Olympian and former number one in the women’s doubles, is safe and allowed to speak freely.
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Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of a newspaper published by the party said Ping would “be seen in public” soon.

The controversy is politically awkward as the Chinese capital prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February. A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday denied knowledge of outrage over Peng’s disappearance.

Peng, 35, has not appeared in public since a statement was posted on social media this month accusing Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the Party’s Standing Committee, the ruling inner circle of power, of forcing her to have sex despite repeated refusals.

Shen works for CGTN, the English language arm of China Central Television targeting foreign audiences. His Twitter post came after CGTN this week distributed a statement it said came from Peng withdrawing the charges against Zhang.

The editor of the Global Times, an English-language newspaper published by the Communist Party, said on Twitter that he had confirmed from anonymous sources that the photos were “in fact the current state of Peng Shuai”.

“For the past few days, I’ve stayed at her home freely and didn’t want to be disturbed,” editor Hu Xijin wrote. “She will be appearing in public and participating in some activities soon.”

Pictures showed Bing with a gray cat holding a panda figurine in what appeared to be a private home with stuffed animals lined up behind her. There was no indication of when the photos were taken.

The President and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon, on Wednesday questioned the legitimacy of the statement from CGTN. It “only worries me about her safety,” Simon said.

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