WTA insist Peng Shuai deserves "to be heard, not censored" on sexual assault claims
It's the first time such a claim has been made against one of China's senior political leaders
The Women's Tennis Association say that Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai deserves "to be heard, not censored" after accusing the country's former vice-premier of sexual assault.
Peng posted on Chinese social media site Weibo saying that she was "forced" into a sexual relationship with Zhang Gaoli.
"The events concerning Peng Shuai are of deep concern," said the WTA.
"The allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship."
The 35-year-old is a former world number one doubles player, having won two Grand Slam titles with Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.
Her title wins came at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
Peng also achieved a career-high singles rankings of 14 in 2011, before reaching the US Open singles semi-finals in 2014.
Statement from Steve Simon, Chairman & CEO, WTA
WTA seeks full, fair and transparent investigation into sexual assault allegations against former Chinese leader and also calls for end of censorship against Peng Shuai.
— wta (@WTA) November 14, 2021
Her allegations - which were soon deleted from China's internet - were made earlier this month and is the first time that such a claim has been made against one of China's senior political leaders.
Zhang served as China's vice-premier between 2013 and 2018 and was a close ally of President Xi Jinping, and has not responded to her claims.
Despite her allegations, Peng stated she would not be able to provide evidence to support her claims.
WTA chief executive Steve Simon said: "As an organisation dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on - equality, opportunity and respect.
"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.
"In all societies, the behaviour that she alleges took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored.
"We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected.
"Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done."
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