With the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, the tennis community is worried on social networks about the fate of the Chinese player Peng Shuai, who would have disappeared for about ten days after accusing one of the leaders of his country of rape on his Weibo account, since deleted.
"Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I have known Peng since she was 14 years old, we should all be worried, this is serious, where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated," wrote former U.S. champion Chris Evert on his Twitter account on Sunday.
The Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet also relayed on Saturday on her account the message #WhereIsPengShuai, adding "let's not remain silent", while the British Liam Broady, taking up the #WhereIsPengShuai tagline too, wrote on Sunday: "I can't believe this kind of thing happens in the 21st century".
Hundreds of anonymous people were asking the same question, pointing out the silence of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the WTA, the umbrella organization of the women's professional circuit.
On November 4, China blocked all references to a message attributed to Peng Shuai, after the former world No. 1 doubles player accused a former senior communist leader of forcing her into a sexual relationship on social networks, before making her his mistress.
The explosive accusation had been briefly posted on November 2 on the official Weibo account of the 35-year-old player, doubles specialist and winner of the French Open doubles tournament in 2014.
In a long text, Peng Shuai claimed to have had, three years ago, a forced sexual relationship with the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who was from 2013 to 2018 one of the most powerful politicians in China.
While censorship had quickly removed the message from the Chinese internet, screenshots had nevertheless spread like wildfire.
The AFP was not able to determine if the message had been written by Peng Shuai and his entourage had refused to comment. Zhang Gaoli did not react publicly.
According to Weibo data, the message, posted on the official account of the player, had been seen more than 100,000 times, but the content had not been specified.