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USA and UN ask China to come clean on missing tennis star Peng Shuai

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.(File Image)

The United States and United Nations have demanded proof from Beijing that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's is safe and well. Peng has gone missing ever since she accused a former Chinese Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US wanted China to "provide independent, verifiable proof" of Peng's whereabouts and expressed "deep concern" about the former world top-ranked doubles player.

The United Nations Human Rights Office has asked for a fully transparent investigation into the accusation made by Peng, 35, that Communist Party leader Zhang Gaoli, 75, had forced her to have sex with him.

"It would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and well-being," Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, told journalists in Geneva.

"We are calling for an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault."

Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief Steve Simon has said he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in China if tennis player Pend Shuai is not fully accounted for and her allegations are not properly investigated.

Also read:  China shocked as tennis star Peng accuses ex-Vice Premier Zhang of forcing her to have sex with him

Leading tennis players of the world have rallied to demand justice for Peng. Tennis legend Serena Williams on Friday joined World No 1 Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka and tennis greats Billie Jean King and Chris Evert in coming out strongly to support Peng Shui.

With the pressure building up on the issue, four undated photographs were posted on late on Friday by the Twitter account @shen_shiwei, labelled "Chinese state-affiliated media" by the social network, according to an AFP report.

The user said the pictures were shared on Peng's WeChat Moments, a function often restricted to friends, to wish her followers a "good weekend".

One image shows the smiling player with a cat in her arms, with stuffed animals, a trophy and a Chinese flag visible in the background.

Another shows a selfie of Peng with an image of Winnie the Pooh in the background. The children's character is often censored online in China because critics say Chinese leader Xi Jinping resembles the cartoon.

Earlier WTA chief Simon cast doubts over the authenticity of an email, purportedly sent to him and other WTA officials by Peng, claiming that she is safe and well. The email was posted on Chinese state media as part of the damage-control exercise by the Chinese authorities.

Simon said that he had a "hard time believing" the email was written by Peng.