Peng Shuai: Chinese state media shares photos 'from tennis player's social media account'

Chinese State Media has shared photos of Peng Shuai purporting to be from her social media account. Credit: @shen_shiwei/Twitter

Chinese state media has posted pictures of missing tennis player Peng Shuai purporting to be from her social media account - though serious doubts remain.

Shen Shiwei, a reporter with Chinese state-affiliated media, said on Friday the photos were posted on Peng’s WeChat moments with the message "happy weekend."

He said: "Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng's WeChat moments."

The sporting star has not been seen since sharing a blog post (now deleted) two weeks ago in which she made a series of sexual assault allegations against China's ex-Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

It follows an email claiming to have been sent by Ms Shuai, which was also shared by China's state broadcaster on Thursday. The text read: "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe."

It has been received with widespread scepticism.

The head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Steve Simon said he didn't think the email had "any validity", adding: "We won't be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her."

Pressure is also being piled on from the WTA who have warned they are willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business from China if the player is not fully accounted for.

"Women need to be respected and not censored," Mr Simon said in an interview on Thursday with CNN.

Peng Shuai Credit: Michel Euler/AP

Mr Simon said the WTA had made contact with its Chinese counterparts but attempts to speak to Peng directly had proved unsuccessful.

"We have reached out to her on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact," he said.

"There's so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have, and to date we still have not been able to get a response."

It came as growing chorus of voices have raised concerns for the player's safety.

Ms Shuai wrote a post claiming she had suffered years of sexual abuse and coercion during a relationship with the former top official.

The 35-year-old is a former top ranked player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

She also participated in three Olympics, making her disappearance all the more prominent with Beijing set to host the Winter Games starting on February 4.

Stars from the tennis world and beyond have shared their concern and shock at her disappearance.

Serena Williams wrote: "I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai.

"This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time."

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray wrote: "Female tennis player Peng Shuai whereabouts currently unknown after making sexual abuse allegations against Chinese government official."

He shared footage of Czech player Barbora Krejcikova's speech during the WTA trophy ceremony in which she spoke about the Velvet Revolution in then-Czechoslovakia, a momentous uprising against the Communist Party.

Williams and Murray are the latest in a string of athletes and celebrities to bring attention to her case.

Judy Murray shared a photograph of the tennis player with the hashtag 'Where is Peng Shuai'.

Earlier in the week Naomi Osaka shared her shock at the disappearance of player.

“Not sure if you’ve been following the news but I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused," Osaka wrote to her 1.1 million followers.

Men's tennis number one Novak Djokovic also expressed shock at the situation and British player Liam Broady, from Stockport, said he couldn't believe something like this could happen in the 21st century.

A complete English translation of Peng Shuai’s post which soon disappeared.

China’s Foreign Ministry has said it was not aware of the controversy surrounding Ms Shuai.

Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters that the matter was “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation.”

The ministry has consistently disavowed knowledge of the issue since it broke as a major global story earlier this week.