November 22, 2021 6:20 AM
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai had a video call with officials of the International Olympic Committee on Sunday (November 21). She said she was safe. This is the first time she has spoken to the outside world publicly a few weeks after she “disappeared”.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated in a statement that Chairman Thomas Bach and Peng Shuai talked for 30 minutes.
Also participating in the video call were Emma Terho, Chairman of the IOC Athletes Committee, and Li Lingwei, a Chinese member of the IOC and Vice Chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee.
“(She) everything is fine. This is our main concern,” the statement read.
Peng Shuai, 35, is a well-known sports star in China, but she disappeared from public view for three weeks after she accused Zhang Gaoli, the former deputy prime minister of China, of sexual assault earlier this month.
Her “disappearance” has aroused widespread attention from the outside world, and many international sports stars and governments of many countries have called on China to provide evidence to prove that she is safe.
“At the beginning of the 30-minute telephone conversation, Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for caring about her health,” the IOC said in a statement.
“She explained that she is safe and well and now lives in her home in Beijing, but hopes that her privacy can be respected at this time,” the statement added.
“She wants to be with friends and family more now,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, she will continue to engage in tennis.”
The IOC’s statement also included a picture of the call, Peng Shuai smiling at the camera.
The International Olympic Committee said that at the end of the call, Bach also invited Peng Shuai to have dinner when he arrived in Beijing in January next year. Peng Shuai accepted the invitation.
On November 3, Peng Shuai accused the 75-year-old former Politburo Standing Committee member and Vice Premier of the State Council Zhang Gaoli of “forcing” herself to have sex with him on a verified account on the Chinese social platform Weibo, although she admitted in the article that she could not Bring out evidence to confirm your allegations.
This is the first time that a senior Chinese leader has been accused of this kind. Her posts were quickly blocked, and her name was blocked on multiple social platforms.
But the strong reaction from the international community seems to have prompted the Chinese state media to release a series of pictures and videos in an attempt to prove her safety.
Earlier on Sunday (November 21), Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the party newspaper Global Times, posted a video on Twitter showing Peng Shuai’s appearance in a youth tennis match in Beijing. In the film, she smiled and stood with a crowd of attendees.
The event organizer also posted a photo of her with the players on Weibo.
Earlier, Hu Xijin also released two videos of Peng Shuai and his friends dining at a restaurant in Xicheng District, Beijing. In the film, people seem to deliberately talk about the date to support the shooting time.
But a spokesperson for the International Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) told Reuters that these videos were “not enough” to prove Peng Shuai’s safety and did not address the organization’s concerns about her condition.
Outside doubts are still there
After Peng Shuai made a call with the International Olympic Committee, some observers and netizens expressed doubts about the call, which did not disclose the details.
“This is Peng Shuai’s latest news, but it hasn’t changed anything,” said Mark Dreyer, founder of China Sports Insider.
“The question about how “free” she is still exists, especially when a Chinese official is also accompanying the phone,” he commented.
“When Peng Shuai was widely discussed on WeChat and Weibo in the firewall of the Chinese Communist Party, I believed that Peng Shuai was safe and free!” said another Twitter user.
On Sunday (November 21), a group of Chinese feminists held a rally in New York to support Peng Shuai.
Event organizer Crystal Chen (pseudonym) told the BBC that although Peng Shuai was “not physically injured” in the videos and photos posted, she “has not been given true freedom.”
“She can’t say what she wants to say in a safe situation,” Christ Chen said.
Participants in the rally also called on Peng Shuai to speak directly with the International Women’s Tennis Association and asked her allegations of sexual assault to be investigated and resolved.
The WTA stated in a new statement on Monday (November 22) that the latest video “does not alleviate or address WTA’s concerns about its health and its ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”
“This video does not change our call. We call for a comprehensive, fair and transparent investigation of her sexual assault allegations without review. This is the issue that caused our initial concern,” the statement said.