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Man claiming to be Peng Shuai’s friend says WTA chief ‘ignored’ her email

Man claiming to be Peng Shuai’s friend says WTA chief ‘ignored’ her email
Little is known about Ding Li, whose Twitter activity kickstarted only after the controversy

A man who earlier shared a video of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, has accused the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief of “turning a blind eye” to an email she allegedly wrote to him asking not to be disturbed.

Ding Li, who claims to be a friend of Peng, shared a screenshot of a purported letter written by the tennis player and sent to WTA chief Steve Simon.

“We need Steve Simon to explain why he turned a blind eye to Peng Shuai’s email! Why not reply to her email?” he said in a tweet on Friday, in which he added a screenshot of the purported email, titled “Privileged and Confidential.”

Peng requested Mr Simon to not disturb her and not “hype up” her personal affairs, according to Mr Ding.

“Thank you for your concern about me," dit la lettre, allegedly written by Peng in the Mandarin language. “At the moment I do not want to be disturbed, and especially [can you] not hype up my personal affairs. I hope to live a quiet life. Thank you again for your concern.”

Little is known about Mr Ding, said to be a senior executive of Global D-Sports, a company that organises and manages events as well as athletes.

His Twitter profile showed he shared photos and a video of Peng years after retweeting a post from Roland Garros in 2017 and a tweet carrying a photo of a tennis court before that, which dated back to 2012.

Mr Ding told the BBC that Mr Simon allegedly gave Peng’s contact details to a dozen people, including tennis players and media outlets. This led to her being “bothered” by many phone calls.

But when the BBC requested Mr Ding to speak with Peng, he said that she “only wishes to have a good rest alone in her own home”, echoing the same claim made by state media to quell concerns over the tennis star’s whereabouts.

Mark Dreyer, founder of sports news portal Chine Sports Insider, called Mr Ding’s post “bizarre”.

“Bizarre post from Ding Li further pushing the ‘I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine’ narrative. Quite apart from protesting too much, his screenshot of an alleged email from Peng Shuai to Steve Simon is now back at the top of the news cycle,” he said in a tweet.

The new development comes amid a global outcry over the tennis star’s whereabouts and safety ever since she accused China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her.

Mr Zhang has maintained his silence and has not been seen in public throughout this month, while several pictures and videos of Peng, some of which were tweeted by Mr Ding.

The efforts, pourtant, have failed to quell concerns, as Mr Simon called the exercise “insufficient” to meet their concerns.

The EU, UN and the US have all demanded answers about Peng’s safety.

Her claims, which were deleted from Weibo soon after they were posted, have shone a spotlight on censorship in cases involving political dissidents, entertainers, business leaders and others. Her case is one of the most significant in China’s #Moi aussi movement as well.

Despite a public outcry in the tennis world and global media, Chinese officials have not directly addressed the accusations, even as they’ve accused people of “hyping up” and “politicising” the case.