This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
Earlier this month, tennis star Peng Shuai accused a senior member from the Chinese Communist Party of sexual assault. The claim was shared on Weibo but was quickly erased from the site.
The athlete, who hadn't been seen since November 2, reemerged via a number of unsettling posts and a video interview.
Concern mounted for Peng, 35, whose whereabouts remained uncertain after she claimed Zhang Gaoil, who served on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee from 2013 and 2018, coerced her into sex almost three years ago in his own home.
However, in recent events, journalist Shen Shiwei from CGTN (the English extension of China Central Television) shared pictures of a smiling Peng on Twitter.
In addition, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach sat down with Peng in an interview. She reiterated to the world she was "safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now."
The growing movement that demanded her safe return, which included the likes of Chinese feminist groups, the WTA and international tennis stars, remain unconvinced that she is safe.
What happened to Peng Shuai?
The post made by Peng was removed from China's version of Twitter within just minutes of being posted and the allegations sent the country's heavily controlled internet into an extraordinary rabbit race to take down all posts relating to the tennis star.
In it, she described having an on and off again extramarital "relationship" with Zhang, 75, for years before being invited to his home to have dinner. Their "secret" relationship, she alleges, was unknown to most people including Peng's own mother.
She went on to write that he had cut it off after he began ranking higher in the Communist Party but eventually got back into contact with Peng a little less than three years ago. On that occasion, she alleges he "forced" her to have sex with him while someone stood guarding the room.
“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not afraid,” Peng wrote in her post. “But even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.
“I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time."
Weibo's moderators scrambled to control the discussion surrounding the communist party member and Peng, including scrubbing searches of her name and reportedly the word 'tennis' too.