Peng Shuai said during a controlled interview on Monday that her sexual assault allegation against a top Chinese official last year was an “enormous misunderstanding.”
Peng told a French newspaper in Beijing that she never accused anyone of sexual assault — even though she said in a now-deleted social media post in November that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her into having sex in 2018 and later abused her during a relationship. She disappeared from public life for some time after posting the accusations.
“Sexual assault? I never said that anyone made me submit to a sexual assault,” L’Equipe quoted Peng as saying, according to The Associated Press.
“This post resulted in an enormous misunderstanding from the outside world,” she added. “My wish is that the meaning of this post no longer be skewed.”
Asked why the post was no longer available on her social media account on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, Peng said, “I erased it.”
“Why? Because I wanted to,” she added, according to the AP.
Peng in December also denied ever leveling sexual assault allegations, saying in a video posted by Singapore media outlet Lianhe Zaobao, “I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point.”
She also said at the time that her now-deleted post on the accusation was a “private matter,” adding that “people have many misunderstandings” about her initial post.
Monday’s interview with Peng came after the Chinese tennis star met with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Beijing over the weekend.
The IOC wrote in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, met with Shuai over dinner, and the tennis star “spoke of her disappointment at not being able to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Peng has said she is doubtful she can professionally play tour-level tennis again because of multiple knee surgeries she has undergone, according to the AP.