Written by By Marnix Bourgeois, CNN Beijing, China
A Chinese tennis star who has been missing for more than five months reappeared at an event in Beijing on Friday.
Yang Xiong, who plays under the name “Liu Xinyu” (“Dragon Xianai”), was detained last month in Shanghai and the authorities have not responded to requests for comment from CNN.
Supporters and friends have been campaigning for his release and accused authorities of blacking out the news.
Yang, who is the son of the country’s No. 2 tennis player, Yao Xiong, stepped out in front of a crowd gathered to watch him play at the China Open in Beijing on Friday.
By using his backhand-volley style, he failed to impress in the first round against Belgium’s Andreas Cornelisse at the China Open. Still, he exited Beijing with a position near the top of the draw.
Yang Xiong made an exit at China Open in Beijing, but left with a top position in the draw. Credit: Liu He/Xinhua Press/Pool via Reuters
Zheng Jianrong, a spokeswoman for China’s Tennis Association, told CCTV that Yang was “in good health” and that the authorities had been following up on the case.
China’s National Sports Administration said on Sunday that it is “concerned about” the issue of Yang’s detention.
The government has put unprecedented pressure on sports stars. In 2017, two female volleyball players were expelled from the Chinese national team over a viral video of them dancing while drinking alcohol, while two Olympic hopefuls were kicked out after making remarks criticizing the Communist Party on social media.
The volleyball players, aged 19 and 19, were punished by the sports administration with a three-month ban and six months of probation.
In a letter announcing the punishment, Yang Xiaolin, head of the athletic administration, called out other top athletes for being guilty of negative comments about the party.
Chinese netizens who supported Yang, angry at the treatment of the volleyball players, blamed the authorities for their lack of transparency and demanded they release an official statement to explain Yang’s detention.
In August, Yang told CNN’s Chris Morrison in Shanghai that he had given authorities as much information as he could but “it is up to them now.”