“I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulting me,” Peng told Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on Sunday, in her first comments to international media since the explosive allegations came to light.
When asked if she has been able to move freely or was concerned about her safety, Peng said she has “always been free” and that she has been living at her home in Beijing.
The interview took place on the sidelines of the International Ski Federation’s cross-country skiing competition in Shanghai on Sunday, where Peng was also photographed with Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, and two former Olympians: sailor Xu Lijia and table tennis player Wang Liqin.
“First of all, it’s my personal privacy. There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here,” she said.
According to screenshots of that post, the two-time Grand Slam doubles champion accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex at his home three years ago.
Chinese authorities have not acknowledged the sexual assault allegations against Zhang and discussion of the subject continues to be censored in China.
In Sunday’s interview, Peng expressed her appreciation toward the IOC, saying she feels “very grateful” to the Olympic body and was “very happy to have video calls with them.”
A spokesperson for the WTA told CNN on Monday, “it was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well.
“As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”
CNN has repeatedly reached out for comment to both Peng and China’s State Council, which handles press inquires for the central government.
As vice premier, Zhang, 75, served on the party’s seven-person Politiburo Standing Committee — the country’s supreme leadership body — alongside President Xi Jinping from 2012 to 2017.