China says ‘not aware’ of tennis player Peng Shuai issue

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry is sticking to its line that it isn’t aware of the controversy surrounding tennis professional Peng Shuai, who disappeared after accusing a former top official of sexually assaulting her. A ministry spokesperson said Friday that the matter was not a diplomatic question and that he was not aware of the situation.

Peng is a former top-ranked player in women’s doubles player who won Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. In a since-deleted social media post, Peng accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of assaulting her three years ago.

Peng Shuai is known for her grit and determination. She showed how tough she is when she dealt with heat exhaustion during the U.S. Open semifinals in 2014. She was eventually taken away from that match in a wheelchair. She also overcame heart surgery at the age of 12 and went on to win two Grand Slam doubles titles and reach No. 1 in doubles. She has a lucky cow on her tennis bag to honor her birth in a year of the ox.

The International Olympic Committee says quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity for a solution.

The Women’s Tennis Association chairman and CEO Steve Simon questioned the authenticity of what Chinese state media said was an email intended for him in which Peng says she is safe and that the assault allegation is untrue. Simon has demanded a full investigation and the WTA said it is prepared to pull tournaments out of the country if it doesn’t get an appropriate response.