Human rights group censures China over tennis star

A global human rights organization has called on athletes, fans and sponsors of the Beijing Winter Games to speak up regarding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who is reportedly missing.

A text posted on Peng's Chinese social media account on November 2 said that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually abused her, and that they later had an extramarital relationship. Media outlets outside China later reported that Peng was missing, causing concerns over her fate.

In a statement on Thursday, US-based Human Rights Watch said the Chinese government "forcibly disappears individuals whose views or conduct it sees as problematic or embarrassing" and "employs extralegal forms of detention."

It added, "Chinese authorities have gone to great length to silence critics."

The statement said, "Athletes, global sports fans and Olympic sponsors should speak up for Peng, and use their leverage to address human rights abuses in China ahead of the Games."

On Thursday, CGTN, the international arm of Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV, released an e-mail which it said was sent by Peng to the head of the Women's Tennis Association, Steve Simon, denying she is missing or unsafe.

Simon and many others have expressed doubts over the authenticity of the message.