Ex-NBA star Yao Ming says he recently had a “pleasant chat” with Peng Shuai
Former NBA star Yao Ming said he met with Peng Shuai and had a “pleasant chat” with the Chinese tennis star – whose disappearance sparked international concern amid allegations a former government official sexually assaulted her.
Yao, 41, a former Houston Rockets player who is now president of the China Basketball Association, said he met Peng at a winter sports exhibition on Dec. 19.
“She was in pretty good shape that day,” he said, according to CBS Sports. “We all chatted happily and asked a lot of questions about the (snow) sport as we didn’t know it.”
Yao, who said he has known Peng for about 20 years, was photographed with her and two other Chinese athletes on an observation deck watching the exhibition.
“We had a pleasant chat,” he said, adding that they were trying to learn more about winter sports.
Peng, 36, who won Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles, denied claiming to Singapore newspaper that she was sexually assaulted by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli – despite a social media post in November, in which she brought the charges against him.
The rejection came the same day photos of her with Yao and two former Olympians were shared on social media.
The images appeared to be part of a campaign to respond to international demands that Peng be allowed to speak openly about her situation.
The International Olympic Committee, which has been pressured to move the upcoming Beijing Winter Games out of China over human rights concerns, came under further fire after IOC President Thomas Bach held a video call with Peng.
An IOC statement said she had assured Bach and others that she was fine.
Meanwhile, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka urged Peng to come forward on Wednesday.
“Not that much has developed in terms of contact with Peng Shuai, although we will continue to make every effort on our part to ensure that she is safe, comfortable,” Azarenka said at the Australian Open. This is reported by the Agence France-Presse.
“Hopefully we’ll hear from her in person at some point. I think that’s the goal, the main goal right now,” added the longtime WTA Players’ Council member.
Last month, the Women’s Tennis Association suspended tournaments in China because it had “serious doubts” about Peng’s safety.
With mail wires