Simon expressed relief at seeing Peng on Saturday, but said, “It’s not clear if she’s free, if she can make decisions on her own without coercion or external interference.”
CNN could not independently verify the videos or confirm when they were shot.
“This video alone is not enough. As I said from the beginning, Peng Shuai’s health and safety allegations of sexual harassment are being censored and expanded. I am clear on what needs to happen. Our relationship with China is at a crossroads,” Simon’s statement said.
Many associated with the Chinese state-run media and sports organization have tweeted photos and videos of themselves asking people to show up for dinner on Saturday. The clips seem to deliberately emphasize specific dates.
A 45-second video clip shows Zhang Junhui, co-director of the China Open, sitting with two women in a restaurant in Beijing.
Throughout the video, Zhang talks to Beng, but she says nothing.
At one point, according to a CNN translation, Zhang said, “Yes, this year is different from last year due to the epidemic. First, we planned to do 10 tours in three months, tomorrow is not November 20? We have a long way to go … planned …”
But one of the two women quickly corrected him to “21st.”
“Oh, November 21st, tomorrow November 21st, we’re going to play the final in Tuanxi,” Zhang continued.
“We’ve had big games before, but due to the epidemic, two tours have been affected. So it is estimated that there will be fewer players, but the kids are still excited,” Zhang added.
“So the players in tomorrow’s game have been champions in the last nine tours in the last three months. You can see that the end of November is Sunday, so it’s like a year – end final,” Zhang said in the video.
Another person, named Ding Li, tweeted the same video and tweeted several new photos of Peng with him and others. He wrote, “Peng Shuai is with me. We are in this restaurant in Beijing, it has gone viral online and we have finished dinner.”
In his tweet, Ding says dinner is at Beijing Yip’s Guest House. The name of the restaurant also matches the one shown in the video, which was published by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the government-run Global Global Times.
In the midst of a global outcry, the Chinese state media’s Twitter accounts are increasingly posting anonymous source information about the tennis star because Hu is so active, which aims to quell the controversy by not acknowledging his claim against Zhang.
Chinese state media outlets such as the Global Times are strictly controlled by Chinese propaganda authorities. Their tweets about Peng were not reported within China, which has long banned Twitter and other international social media sites.
Within 30 minutes of the release of Peng’s post on sexual harassment on China’s Twitter site Weibo, Chinese auditors quickly moved to clear up the allegations online. His Weibo account, which has more than half a million followers, is still blocked from site searchers.
WTA President Simon said on Friday that he was prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in China if Peng’s allegations were not properly investigated.
Earlier in the week, Chinese state media released an email that allegedly sent Simon from Benghazi withdrawing his allegations and saying he was fine.
The alleged email was only published on English language sites and although Peng was a household name in China, the local Chinese media did not report its contents.
When asked about the email, Simon questioned its authenticity, describing it as “some kind of status statement” and noted that although he responded immediately, he had not yet received a series of replies.
“We don’t know if she was forced to write it or if someone wrote it for her,” Simon said. “But I do not think there is any validity in that at this point. We will not be comfortable until we get a chance to talk to her,” he added.
Later on Friday, CGTN journalist Shen Shive tweeted three photos that Peng had posted on WeChat with the message “Happy Weekend”.
Shen said the photos were shared by a friend of Peng’s. CNN could not independently verify when the photos were taken, whether Peng himself posted the photos or whether they were posted.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, the Global Times republished photos of Hu and Peng.
“I have confirmed through my own sources today that these photos are actually Peng Shuai’s current status. For the past few days, he has been living freely in his own home and he does not want to be disturbed,” Hu tweeted. “He will appear in public and will soon be taking part in some activities.”
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Peng’s accusation was not a diplomatic issue and declined to comment.
Kevin Dodson of CNN contributed to this report.
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