Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has accused a retired former top Chinese Communist Party leader of sexually assaulting her, resulting in a libel lawsuit in which she and her agent are suing Yihan Li, as she is now known.
The allegation comes a few weeks after senior Chinese tennis official Lu Guanrong, chief coach of the Chinese women’s tennis team, was arrested by Chinese police for sexual harassment.
The Telegraph reported that she went to a police station in Guangzhou, China, on Tuesday and accused Li, who had retired as a member of the party’s Central Committee in 2006, of having sexually assaulted her during a training trip to China. Peng added that Li had later offered her money to drop the allegations. The Telegraph said that Li didn’t file a police report but offered a written response saying that Peng had been mistaken.
Last month, Li’s lawyer Tsai Jianwen told a private TV channel: “Peng and her husband didn’t file a police report against Li because they didn’t have sufficient evidence. They were very embarrassed.”
But Peng said she couldn’t keep silent. In a statement to the Telegraph, she said: “The only way to put a stop to this action is for me to take legal action. “I can’t sit idly by and watch the sexual harassment of Chinese women by their own government, which is happening at the highest level.”
She said her lawsuit should be seen as a test of China’s new rules against sexual harassment in sport. Peng said that she’d tried to complain to Chinese authorities about the assault but that her complaints were ignored.
Peng first revealed the incident at a press conference in Guangzhou in August. When asked about it, she said: “Li was drunk at that time and I don’t think she was capable of committing this crime. I can’t even reveal the truth. I can’t even disclose her face because it was dark, but what kind of person is that?”
She said her parents and agent had been informed.
The Telegraph said that after Li failed to provide any response to Peng’s lawsuit, she hired a lawyer and has since filed a police report. The police are now conducting a further investigation of Li, who has denied Peng’s accusations. The lawsuit, which will go to trial next month, says that Peng is seeking 725,000 yuan ($111,000) in damages and that a Chinese television station and a newspaper ran reports about the assault without disclosing who she is.