After weeks of speculation on the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, Peng was finally seen in public last week and spoke with IOC president Thomas Bach via video call.
Videos of Peng surfaced eating at a restaurant and attending a youth tennis tournament, but the videos were posted by the editor and chief of the Global Times — a Chinese state media outlet — raising concerns as to whether Peng was moving about on her own free will.
The video call with Peng seemed to be enough for the IOC, because Peng “appeared to be relaxed” on the call.
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated,” said Emma Terho, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused the IOC of “collaboration with Chinese authorities on tennis star Peng Shuai’s reappearance.”
“The IOC has vaulted itself from silence about Beijing’s abysmal human rights record to active collaboration with Chinese authorities in undermining freedom of speech and disregarding alleged sexual assault,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The IOC appears to prize its relationship with a major human rights violator over the rights and safety of Olympic athletes.”
“If the IOC wants to credibly claim it’s a ‘force for good,’ it needs to stop participating in the Chinese government’s repressive practices,” Wang said. “The IOC should instead be standing up for human rights and the freedom and safety of athletes.”
Though the video call was a relief for the IOC, it was also apparently insufficient for the Women’s Tennis Association.
“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,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email to ESPN on November 21.
On November 2, Peng posted to Chinese social media that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her three years ago following a round of tennis, while Zhang’s wife guarded the door. Her post was deleted nearly 30 minutes after publication and Peng’s Weibo account — a Chinese social media platform — was blocked from searchers on the platform.
She was not heard from publicly until a November 17th statement attributed to Peng was shared on Twitter by CGTN — a Chinese state-affiliated media company — where Peng denied her claim that Zhang sexually assaulted her.
Concern over Peng’s safety has reached far beyond the sports world, with the United Nations and the White House calling for “proof” of Peng’s whereabouts.
“We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.
“We know the PRC has zero tolerance for criticism and a record of silencing those that speak out and we continue to condemn those practices,” Psaki continued.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
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