US, UK and China demand evidence China sent missing gymnasts to US

An investigation is under way after two Chinese gymnasts were reported missing from the US who said they were allegedly kidnapped in Shanghai

The United Nations, the US and British foreign ministries have demanded that Chinese state media provide evidence that a pair of gymnasts who claimed they were kidnapped and brought to the US were safe.

China demanded in a statement published by the state-run Xinhua news agency that the Associated Press return “bad and groundless news” and that the foreign ministers of China, United States and Britain meet to resolve the issue.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Saturday denied the pair had been abducted but also said it had not heard about the athletes’ reported arrival in the US.

Peng Shuai (@pengshuai) Our effort to improve US-China relations is based on trust, cooperation and mutual respect. It’s China’s right to defend its rights and interests. I will continue to do what I have done. #goodtime #paxmil

Peng Shuai, 20, and Chia Weiwei, 19, “went missing” on their way to the World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow on 21 September, according to the Chinese gymnastics association. The women are gymnasts with national teams in China and France, and were staying at a hostel in China.

In a report on Saturday, an American gymnast said she and other teammates had decided to report the case to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) after first learning of their teammates’ disappearance on Facebook.

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The woman, who said she had seen Peng’s “outrageous pictures” on social media, said she had raised the issue in a group chat that contained other gymnasts and appeared “constantly with someone”.

Asked in an interview on Sunday about Peng’s statement on Sunday, Muno, who competes for the US, said Peng had not known the rest of the US gymnastics team was nearby during a bus ride.

“They were with us the whole time,” Muno said.

“We talked about the incident all day [on Saturday]. It was pretty raw,” Muno said, adding that she heard Peng was in good health.

Muno said she thought the episode was a misunderstanding but Peng had her suspicions.

“In gymnastics, it’s like what happens in the film Ocean’s Eleven,” Muno said. “They were on a bus. They stopped right in front of us. We were laughing because it was so ridiculous. We looked out the window and were like, ‘She’s just innocent. She’s just confused.’

“It was hilarious. You know, we were just laughing.”

A spokeswoman for the United Nations declined to comment on the case, while the US and UK foreign ministries said they were unable to comment due to privacy and sensitive diplomatic issues.

The women’s respective international governing bodies gave no information on the disappearance or their players’ whereabouts, saying they were looking into the matter.

China’s chief state public security official was quoted as saying in an interview on Friday that there was no requirement for foreign governments to take a foreign national’s side in such cases.

Peng had discussed her situation with the president of the FIG, Wu SHAO, on Wednesday evening.

She had written about her disappearance on her microblog on Thursday in a message to friends saying that she “only wants to say I love you. He [the former president of the FIG] told me he heard it was a misunderstanding. The process continues,” she wrote, her voice choked with emotion.

AP contributed to this report

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