Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s (彭帥) video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not address or alleviate the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) concern about her well-being, the WTA said on Monday.
The whereabouts of Peng, a former doubles world No. 1, became a matter of international concern nearly three weeks ago, after she alleged that former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli (張高麗) had sexually assaulted her.
She appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, photographs and videos published by Chinese state media journalists and by the tournament’s organizers showed — but they have done little to quell concerns.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
Asked about the call with the IOC, the spokeswoman said: “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”
The IOC said in a statement that Peng held a 30-minute call with IOC president Thomas Bach on Sunday, during which she said she was safe and well at home in Beijing, and wanted to have her privacy respected for now.
Pressure is growing on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to toughen his stance toward Beijing amid fears over Peng’s well-being, with senior members of parliament claiming a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing is inevitable.
The pressure did not appear to dissipate after Bach’s video call with Peng.
The episode was dismissed by British Member of Parliament Tim Loughton, of the influential Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, as “straight out of the Chinese Communist party playbook.”
Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡錫進), who has posted videos and photographs of Peng in Beijing, wrote on Twitter on Monday that her appearance should be enough to ease worries of “those who truly care about [the] safety of Peng Shuai.”
“But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them,” he added.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian on Sunday called for Chinese authorities to allow Peng to speak publicly.
“I’m expecting only one thing: that she speaks,” Le Drian told LCI television, adding that there could be unspecified diplomatic consequences if China did not clear up the situation.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that he was considering a US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, in what would be an attempt to show toughness over China’s rights abuses without impacting US athletes.
Current and former tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, joined the calls seeking to confirm she was safe, using the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai?
Men’s singles world No. 1 Novak Djokovic said that it would be strange to hold tournaments in China unless the “horrific” situation was resolved.
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