China bans CNN from reporting on missing tennis player

Image copyright AFP Image caption The Chinese government has banned any coverage of her disappearance

CNN says it has been unable to cover a recent disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai for almost 24 hours because of a “countrywide blackout”.

According to the network, it had been unable to reach mainland Chinese journalists with access to information.

CNN says China used an article in the state-run media – Xinhua News Agency – to ban coverage of her disappearance.

But China told the BBC that “the relevant news is naturally available to all Chinese media”.

The young player, 24, was detained in Beijing on 27 August and charged with stealing an iPhone, though the charges have not been clarified.

CNN says reporters were told to turn up to a hotel where the star is staying in order to question her, but she reportedly told them to go home instead.

She is under the state’s controversial “re-education through labour” system, which allows “lawbreakers” to serve short jail sentences or be placed under forced labour.

According to Xinhua, Chinese authorities are investigating whether Peng is a victim of “forced confession” which could lead to charges.

“The investigating team found that Li Zheng [Peng’s manager] organised [Peng] to engage in recreational and public consumption activities to commit a violation of the law by going against the grain of regulations and causing damage to public security,” Xinhua said.

Reuters reported on 29 August that Peng was in possession of an iPhone when she was stopped in Beijing.

China has sought to block reporting on the case from foreign media.

Peng’s wife was quoted by CNN on Wednesday as saying “she [Peng] did not steal any items, and she did not steal the phone”.

Police told Reuters on Thursday that it was a “personal case”, and that her alleged theft was a “private matter”.

The Interpreter blog on Wednesday said some Chinese papers had supported the charge of robbery, while others referred to Peng’s alleged misdemeanour as a “mistake”.

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