Photo of Peng Shuai with grey cat is undated and is not evidence that she is alive and well

NEWS AND COMMENT: You have probably been reading about the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, 35, a former Wimbledon doubles champion, who apparently went missing after she accused retired Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex. She posted her views on the Chinese website Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Her post was deleted about an hour later. A screenshot was taken before it was deleted which I reproduce at the base of the page as it remains on the internet for anyone to see.

Peng Shuai with grey cat
Peng Shuai with grey cat looking happy. But when was the photo taken? This cannot be evidence that she is alive and well at present. Photo in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Update: Peng held a 30-minute call with IOC president Thomas Bach on Sunday, during which she said she was safe and well at home in Beijing. This seems to put the matter to bed except for the initial allegation that she made about the former senior official. She still may be under coercion and not free to speak as she wishes.

Of course, the government of China doesn’t like this. They dislike any criticism and stamp on it. That’s why when Peng Shuai went quiet the world of tennis was fearful. There is real concern that she has been done away with. That might sound extreme but it’s a reasonable thought.

And now photographs and videos have emerged of Peng Shuai as evidence that she is well. They were posted online on Saturday by a journalist working with a state TV channel. One of the photographs is of her with a grey cat in what appears to be a private home with plush toys behind her. That’s where the relevance of this story to this website comes in!

Peng Shuai appears to like cats although there is no evidence online that she lives with a cat or cat. She’s smiling and I think genuinely happy to be handling this grey cat. Although her handling of the cat is not quite right, to be honest. I don’t think that this is her cat or her home.

The problem with the photographs that have leaked is that they appear to be undated. Certainly, the photograph of her with the cat is undated to the public. There is no point in publishing photographs of her as shown on this page without some verifiable evidence of the date it was taken. And neither are the videos satisfactory evidence.

The photograph on this page could never be accurately dated unless the date is embedded into the photograph by the camera because it is the sort of photograph that could be taken over a wide time frame. But a photograph taken at a well-known event can obviously be dated because the event itself can be dated.

Peng Shaui post on Weibo accusing senior government official of forcing her to have sex
Peng Shaui post on Weibo accusing senior government official of forcing her to have sex. Screenshot.

That is what the public and the world of tennis is looking for. Better still; we would like to see a video of her talking and referring to the incident in the past tense. That would be verifiable evidence that she is alive and well. The authorities in China need to do more to satisfy the world in general and specifically the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) who have said that they will prohibit tournaments in China until they are satisfied that Peng is alive and well.

P.S. Peng Shuai won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title in 2013 before claiming the French Open women’s doubles crown a year later.

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