Murray speaks out on Peng Shuai as WTA threatens to pull tournaments from China

Andy Murray has sent a message as concerns grow over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Peng, 35, has not been seen since taking to Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, to make accusations of sexual assault against former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli on November 2.

The post was quickly taken down, and subsequent posts and reactions – including keywords such as “tennis” – were blocked, while numerous references to Peng were also removed from the Chinese internet.

On Wednesday, Chinese state media released an email purportedly written by Peng, which said she was 'resting at home' and stated that her previous allegation of sexual assault against Zhang was not true.

However, tennis personnel, WTA chief executive Steve Simon included, doubt the notion that the message had come from Peng herself, and fears over the former world no 14's safety continue to escalate.

On Friday morning, Murray, 34, took to Twitter to share a video of a speech made by Barbora Krejcikova at this week's WTA Finals in Mexico. During the trophy presentation, the Czech player paid tribute to the 'Velvet Revolution' in her country 32 years ago.

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In front of Martina Navratilova, she described how the tennis legend had to leave her birth country because of a regime now no longer in place, meaning people could live in "freedom."

As well as sharing her emotional words, Murray himself wrote "Female tennis player Peng Shuai whereabouts currently unknown after making sexual abuse allegations against Chinese government official. This speech gives us a reminder and some hope that things can change in the future."

He rounded off his message to his 3.5 million followers with the hashtag now attributed to her disappearance, #WhereIsPengShuai.

The official WTA Twitter account also used the hashtag on Thursday night, alongside an image of the former French Open and Wimbledon women's doubles champion – and a number of professional players, past and present, followed suit.

Simon, meanwhile, has pledged to scrap WTA Tour events in China, potentially worth tens of millions of dollars, unless clarity over Peng's well-being is provided, and she is free to speak without censorship.

"We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it," he told CNN. "Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored."

US President Joe Biden also this week said said Team USA would be prepared to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing next February unless the Chinese Government pledged to improve the country's human rights record.

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