BEIJING — The United Nations and the White House on Friday requested access to International Table Tennis Federation World Championships badminton player Peng Shuai to verify reports of her being abducted in a Los Angeles suburb.
The Chinese are investigating reports of “an abduction and disappearance of a Chinese national” involving the athlete. The unidentified athlete was spotted late Thursday in a gas station near Van Nuys, California, where she had been spotted several times, according to online reports.
Peng told reporters at the biennial tournament in March that she was forced to attend last week’s news conference, where she and several other Chinese competitors tried to deflect blame for a series of judging errors at the event.
The WTF said the federation has reached out to a U.S. attorney to assist them in facilitating communications and verifying information about this matter.
The official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday that the United States Consulate, the White House and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing urged China to provide in-person information and assistance to a Chinese national, “allowing her to move freely.”
“At the same time, the Foreign Ministry expressed its regret over media reports reporting allegations against a Chinese national,” Xinhua said, without elaborating.
Beijing embassy spokesperson Hua Chunying declined to comment on Friday, referring The Washington Post to an earlier statement.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, told a regular news briefing that Beijing is “not aware” of the reported case and called on the Foreign Ministry of the United States to provide “in-person information and assistance to a Chinese national, allowing her to move freely.”
The State Department said it had “expressed our concerns” to the Chinese side. It called on China to “provide appropriate consular access to this individual as soon as possible.”
“We remain confident that U.S. law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough investigation to verify details of this case and resolve the situation,” said Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment, saying she had not yet seen the allegation or evidence to support it.
Peng, one of eight young women heading to the Australian Open, the top tennis tournament of the year, has previously competed at the Rio Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup.
The badminton badminton tournament’s governing body said it is trying to get the Chinese Embassy to confirm the detention.
The former world number one player has faced allegations that her team had advised its athletes to keep a distance from the court judges during the recent games in Los Angeles.
At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last month to discuss poor China Olympic badminton performance, an outraged Peng implied the United States had put an unfair strain on Chinese athletes.
Malaysian fans jeered the players as they came on to the court, with the usual serenity subsided by booing and shouts of “not in my name” aimed at the Chinese.
The International Olympic Committee ordered the badminton world governing body to investigate and announce its findings next week.