“Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK. I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way,” Osaka said as part of a Twitter statement on Tuesday.
She used the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai in her post.
According to screenshots of a since-deleted social media post dated November 2, Peng, one of China’s most well-known tennis players, accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her into sex at his home three years ago.
Peng’s post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was quickly removed by Chinese censors, who moved quickly to remove any mention of the accusation from the internet.
Peng has not been seen in public since the allegations were made, and her whereabouts are unknown. Her Weibo account, which has over half a million followers, is still inaccessible to search engines.
A growing number of international athletes are concerned about Peng’s safety.
“Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated,” tennis legend and 39-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter.
And former world No.1 Chris Evert said, “these accusations are very disturbing.”
“I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated,” she said in a post on Twitter.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) demanded that the Chinese government investigate the allegations on Sunday, insisting that the former world number one doubles player be “heard, not censored.”
WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement that Peng’s allegations were “deeply concerning,” and that the allegations needed to be investigated “fully, fairly, transparently, and without censorship.”
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” Simon said. “Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”