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Mystery Deepens Over Missing Chinese Tennis Player After ‘new Photos’ Emerge

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The mystery surrounding Peng Shuai has taken a fresh twist after photos emerged purporting to show the missing Chinese tennis player.

Three photos posted on Twitter by journalist Shen Shiwei, working for CGTN, the international arm of government-controlled state broadcaster CCTV, show the 35-year-old smiling with a grey cat while surrounded by soft toys.

Mr Shen said the pictures were posted on the player’s WeChat messaging app alongside text saying: “Happy weekend.”

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The photos show the 35-year-old smiling with a grey cat while surrounded by soft toys

He added that “her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments”.

Experts have expressed scepticism and questioned the authenticity of the images.

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Others also pointed to the presence in one of the photos of a framed picture featuring Winnie the Pooh – a character banned in China after people mockingly likened him to President Xi Jinping.

Peng, a former Wimbledon doubles champion, disappeared after writing a social media post on 2 November accusing a former top government official of forcing her to have sex after playing tennis at his home. Her original post on Weibo has been taken down.

An email said to be from Peng was released on Wednesday by CGTN, but doubts have also been raised over its authenticity.

It says the sexual assault claim “is not true” and adds: “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine”.

It comes after Andy Murray and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) joined an online campaign to help find Peng.

The two-time Wimbledon champion tweeted that her “whereabouts (are) currently unknown after making sexual abuse allegations against (a) Chinese government official”.

The LTA said it was a “very concerning situation” and that the “immediate priority is to establish that Peng Shuai is safe and well”.

It is important that Peng is “able to speak freely and not subject to any form of censorship”, the association added.

Murray linked his tweet to a video of Czech player Barbora Krejcikova speaking about her country’s liberation from communism during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Martina Navratilova, standing behind Krejcikova, is in tears. Navratilova defected from communist Czechoslovakia early in her career, becoming a US citizen in 1981. The revolution ended communist rule in the country and in 1993, the nation was dissolved, becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Murray said of the footage: “This speech gives us a reminder and some hope that things can change in the future. #WhereIsPengShuai.”

Other tennis stars including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are among those concerned over her whereabouts.

In a statement, the LTA added that it had written to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), offering its assistance in efforts to establish Peng’s “safety and wellbeing”.

The LTA added: “We are also keen to support any further measures that the tours can introduce to improve the safety of all players.”

China’s foreign ministry claimed on Friday that it was unaware of the controversy.

Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters it was “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation”.

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Messages about China tennis player ‘censored’

Steve Simon, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), said it “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts”.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he said in a statement.

“Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government.

“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.”

Mr Simon said Peng’s sexual assault claim must be investigated with “full transparency” and she should be allowed to speak “without coercion or intimidation”.

Speaking to NBC News, he also raised the prospect of rethinking WTA events in China if things are not resolved satisfactorily.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International said Chinese authorities must prove Peng is safe and fully investigate the sexual assault allegations.

The country has a “track record of forcing statements out of individuals under duress, or else simply fabricating them”, said its China researcher Doriane Lau.

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Article: news.sky.com

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A Historic Night for Barbados and the Role of the Royal Family

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The crowds were strictly restricted due to the COVID pandemic, and despite the efforts and enthusiasm of the bands and dancers the atmosphere seemed muted in National Heroes Square, once known as Trafalgar Square.

But as the ceremonial events got under way the significance was striking, a historic night for Barbados and the role of the Royal Family.

There was a series of symbolic moments: the Prince of Wales closing almost 400 years of royal history inspecting one last military march past; the standard lowered for the final time; and the new president, Dame Sandra Mason, stepping forward to take her new role just seconds after the clock struck midnight.

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Rihanna ‘national hero’ of Barbados

Barbados had made that final step out on its own, now a republic.

In the distance you could hear the crowds clapping as the president entered the square.

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There were a few cheers for Prince Charles as his car swept past them, but the loudest cheer was for Barbados’s biggest star Rihanna, as she tried to make a subtle appearance during the middle of the proceedings.

And with the cheering and the fireworks lighting up the sky you could be led to believe this was a moment of celebration for all Barbadians.

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Barbados becomes a republic ending 400 years of the British royal family as head of state

Yes, independence day always brings parties, but the move to a republic isn’t without controversy.

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‘Atrocity of slavery forever stains our history’

There was no referendum about it, and in the crowds it wasn’t difficult to find those who thought they should have had their say, others who don’t understand what this new status means for them, as well as those who for decades have fought to cut the colonial ties.

While it will remain a member of the Commonwealth, now it will be up to Prime Minister Mia Mottley to more forcefully take Barbados to the world stage, hammer home the need for greater support on the matters of COVID and the climate crisis.

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President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna and Prince Charles during the transition ceremony

This is not a completely fresh slate, there are still matters around reparations and the legacy of the slave trade to deal with.

Prince Charles at least acknowledging the appalling ways hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were treated, going some would say further formally in his comments than any other member of his family in the past.

He too reiterated that message that this is a new chapter for Barbados. And it was encouraging to see that at the helm a female prime minister and a female president are now helping to write that future.

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Original Post: news.sky.com

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Rihanna Declared a ‘national Hero’ As Barbados Celebrates Becoming a Republic

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Barbadian singer and businesswoman Rihanna has been declared a national hero by the country’s prime minister.

The 33-year-old was awarded the honour by Mia Mottley during an event to celebrate the island nation becoming a republic.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero for Barbados, ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty,” the PM said to a jubilant crowd in the capital, Bridgetown.

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The singer was awarded the honour as the Caribbean island celebrated becoming a republic

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions.”

Rihanna was born in Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, before moving to the United States after she was discovered by New York-based music producer Evan Rogers.

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She has since gone on to become one of the biggest artists in the world, as well as starring in movies including Battleship and Ocean’s 8, and launching her own fashion brand, Fenty, in 2018.

Since 2018, Rihanna has had the honorary title of Ambassador for Culture and Youth in Barbados.

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In 2008, former prime minister David Thompson declared 22 February “Rihanna Day” – and although it is not a bank holiday, Barbadians celebrate it every year.

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Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony

The latest honour was awarded to the star from her homeland as it celebrated becoming a republic – 55 years after gaining independence from the UK.

In a message to the people of the Caribbean island, the Queen sent her “good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and emphasised the importance of the “continuation of the friendship” with the UK as she ceased to be their monarch.

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Rihanna joined the ceremony in Bridgetown

Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony formalising the move.

Speaking in front of a crowd in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, once known as Trafalgar Square, he said: “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our histories, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

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There was singing and dancing during the celebrations

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”

Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the island’s first-ever president.

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Source: news.sky.com

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Prince Charles Acknowledges ‘appalling’ History of Slavery As Barbados Becomes a Republic

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The Prince of Wales has formally acknowledged “the appalling atrocity of slavery” in the Caribbean, saying “it forever stains our history” at an event to mark Barbados becoming a republic.

Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony formalising the Caribbean island’s decision to remove the Queen as its head of state.

Speaking in front of a crowd in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, once known as Trafalgar Square, he said: “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our histories, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”

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Prince Charles celebrated the UK’s relationship with Barbados in his speech

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Performers provide entertainment as part of the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony in Bridgetown

A 21-gun salute was fired just after midnight when the nation officially became a republic, marking a new chapter in the nation’s history.

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The prince, who described how “the creation of this republic offers a new beginning”, watched as the Queen’s standard was lowered for the final time.

He described how he felt “deeply touched” to be invited to the event, held on the nation’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, and spoke of his great personal respect for the people of Barbados.

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He added: “Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story, adding to the treasury of past achievement, collective enterprise and personal courage which already fill its pages.

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Members of the Barbados armed forces carry the presidential colours

A new chapter

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum – a milestone on the long road you have not only travelled but which you have built.”

In a message to the people of the Caribbean island, the Queen sent her “good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and emphasised the importance of the “continuation of the friendship” with the UK as she ceased to be their monarch.

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Rihanna ‘national hero’ of Barbados

Barbados’ decision to remove the Queen as head of state will be watched closely by other members of the Commonwealth, especially in the Caribbean region.

Prince Charles’ speech referenced the UK’s close relationship with Barbados and a continuing partnership between the two nations.

“As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change,” Prince Charles said.

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Dame Sandra Mason is now president of Barbados

“For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth; our common determination to defend the values we both cherish and to pursue the goals we share; and the myriad connections between the people of our countries – through which flow admiration and affection, co-operation and opportunity – strengthening and enriching us all.”

After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’ first ever president.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony.

Barbadian singer Rihanna also attended the event and was declared a national hero.

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions,” Ms Mottley told Rihanna, a reference to her 2012 chart-topping single Diamonds.

The transition ceremony was watched in-person by a large crowd, and broadcast online and on screens across the island.

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Source: news.sky.com

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