China announces investigation into tennis player whose disappearance remains unexplained

Australian Open winner Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland hits a shot during her warm-up for the Japan Open tennis tournament at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo on September 7, 2017. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Peng Shuai, a Chinese professional tennis player, disappeared in August and has not been seen since. Peng’s family told Chinese media that the 30-year-old, whose full name is Peng Shuai, had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. On Sept. 1, China’s ruling Communist Party announced that Peng was being investigated on suspicion of gambling fraud. There is no information as to whether the matter is connected to her disappearance, nor do any other details have been released about the case.

Family members have alleged that Peng was involved in illegal gambling activity on a Chinese tennis tour that her team took in September to Asia. Published media reports indicate that Peng was seen at a gaming club in Singapore and later at a casino in Macau. The player reportedly then traveled to China to meet with agents.

If the case is tied to her disappearance, it would be the first major case of China’s government declaring someone to be under investigation for crime in which gambling appears to be the prime motive. There have been isolated reports of active gambling in China’s major cities, but it is rare for authorities to use their extensive social media censorship as a pretext to make an arrest.

Chinese tennis officials have voiced a strong interest in establishing a tour of Chinese players who compete overseas, without revealing whom they had in mind. They hoped to achieve this through promoting the country’s one-child policy and support from the Communist Party to allow more women to enter professional tennis. Chinese media has indicated that China’s current top ranked female tennis player is currently excluded from international tours.

The family of Peng, as well as her former coach Li Xueren, have stated that they are extremely concerned for her welfare. At least one Chinese newspaper has been circulating photos and articles indicating that the incident was a money-driven fraud, but no firm evidence has emerged.

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.


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