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Peng Shuai: UK ‘extremely concerned’ about missing tennis star – as new footage released | worldnews

China must provide “verifiable evidence” that missing tennis player Peng Shuai is safe, the Foreign Office has said, as Chinese state media releases more unverified footage.

In the newly released video, Peng, a former Wimbledon doubles champion, is shown at the opening ceremony of a teenager tennis match final in Beijing on Sunday morning.

The video was posted on Twitter – which is banned in China – by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. He claimed it was taken by a reporter at the scene.

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State media releases footage of tennis star

It comes after earlier images supposedly show Peng having dinner with her coach and friends in Beijing.

The 35-year-old disappeared after writing a social media post on 2 November accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex after playing tennis at his home.

Despite the new photos, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the government remained “extremely concerned” and was following the case closely.

“The Chinese authorities should urgently provide verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts,” the spokesperson said.

“Everyone should be allowed to speak out without fear of repercussions. All reports of sexual assault, anywhere in the world, should be investigated.”

Head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Steve Simon, said although it is “positive to see her” in the earlier video, it “remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference”.

The organization’s chairman and chief executive added: “This video alone is insufficient… I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.”

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s PM program the government should boycott the Winter Olympics and said the UK should “stand up” and make it clear to China that human rights abuses were unacceptable.

Images purport to show Peng Shuai in a restaurant.  Pic: @li_ding1
Images and video have been released purportedly showing Peng Shuai (third from right) in a restaurant. Pic: @li_ding1
Images purport to show Peng Shuai in a restaurant.  Pic: @li_ding1
Peng appears to be smiling and having fun. Pic: @li_ding1

Photos of Peng in the Beijing restaurant have also been released on social media, where she appears to be holding a glass of wine and making a “V for Victory” sign.

In the video, Peng is seen sitting with a man and two women but does not speak.

The man and one of the women make repeated references to the date, with the man saying: “Tomorrow is the 20th of November right?”

The woman corrects him by saying it would be 21 November, before the man discusses Peng’s recent performances and upcoming tournaments.

“We had two matches in the past,” he says. “But we were not happy with the results.

“The match tomorrow is the conclusion of the nine matches in the past three months.

“The end of November is the end of the year. We must try our best.”

Images purport to show Peng Shuai in a restaurant.  Pic: @li_ding1
Peng is a former Wimbledon doubles champion. Pic: @li_ding1

Peng’s original post on Weibo has been taken down and neither Zhang Gaoli nor the Chinese government have commented on her allegation.

It comes as Boris Johnson is reportedly considering a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year in protest at China’s record on human rights.

An “active discussion” in government is ongoing, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said to be in favor of the boycott, the Times newspaper said.

Peng Shuai in an image purportedly posted by the missing Chinese tennis player
Peng was seen with a cat in a ‘new’ photo

On Friday, photos had emerged apparently showing Peng relaxing at homesurrounded by soft toys and with a gray cat.

Experts have expressed skepticism and questioned the authenticity of the images.

Others also pointed to the presence in one of the photos of a framed picture featuring Winnie the Pooh – a character banned in China after people mockingly liked him to President Xi Jinping.

Peng Shuai in an image purportedly posted by the missing Chinese tennis player
Skeptics pointed to the presence of Winnie the Pooh – a character banned in China after people mockingly liked him to President Xi Jinping

An email said to be from Peng was released on Wednesday by CGTN – the international arm of government-controlled state broadcaster CCTV – but doubts have also been raised about its authenticity.

It says the sexual assault claim “is not true” and adds: “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”

The White House and the United Nations have joined demands to establish the whereabouts and welfare of Peng.

Amid growing concernthe WTA has threatened to pull tournaments out of China and the men’s ATP has demanded clarity from Chinese authorities.

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Andy Murray and the Lawn Tennis Association have joined an online campaign to help find Peng.

Other tennis stars including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are among those worried about her whereabouts.

World number one Djokovic said he supported “100%” the WTA’s threat to ax its China events.

He told reporters: “This is horrifying. I mean, a person is missing.

“The whole community, tennis community needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she’s safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange.”

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