China says Peng Shuai case is ‘maliciously’ hyped up

China on Tuesday said the controversy surrounding Peng Shuai was being “maliciously” hyped up, after the Chinese tennis star made sexual assault claims against one of the nation’s most powerful politicians.

Ms. Peng, a Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, was not seen for more than two weeks after she made the accusations against former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

The 35-year-old Ms. Peng reappeared in public for the first time at the weekend when she was seen attending a Beijing tennis tournament.

“I think some people should stop deliberately and maliciously hyping up, let alone politicise this issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in response to a question on whether the case affected China’s international image.

Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in February. “I believe you have all seen that she recently attended some public events and had a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach,” Mr. Zhao added.

The comment was the most direct response from the Chinese Government to Ms. Peng’s case.

Until Tuesday, Beijing had repeatedly brushed off questions about her whereabouts and welfare — calling them “not a diplomatic issue”.

Evidence of her claims have also been scrubbed from China’s highly censored Internet. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to end lucrative contracts with China unless it gets word of Ms. Peng’s safety.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 12:32:38 am |