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Over the past month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has held two calls with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, as concern grew following her accusations of sexual assault against a senior Chinese official.
In the first, president of the IOC Thomas Bach held a video call with Peng, where she said she was “safe and well.” In the second call, the IOC said “she appeared to be safe and well.”
“The IOC’s efforts led to a half-hour videoconference with Peng Shuai on 21 November, during which she explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in,” the IOC said in a statement regarding the second call. “This was reconfirmed in yesterday’s call. Our human and person-centred approach means that we continue to be concerned about her personal situation and will continue to support her.”
Now, the IOC appears to be walking back their previous statements on Peng’s situation.
“We can’t provide you with absolute certainty on anything,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said according to ESPN. “All we can do is do the best we can in the process that we believe is in the best interests of the well-being of the athlete.”
Adams’ comment came on Tuesday at the IOC’s first press conference since the Women’s Tennis Association suspended all tournaments in China — including in Hong Kong — last week. The committee has been subject to criticism regarding their handling of Peng’s situation, with Human Rights Watch accusing 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.”
In the IOC’s first call with Peng, Bach said he invited Peng to a dinner when he arrives in Beijing in January, an invitation which Peng “gladly accepted.”
“We can’t give assurances and we don’t know the full facts,” Adams said on Tuesday. “It’s a full road map to at least attempt to keep in touch and to see where she is.”
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 17 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.
On Monday, the Biden administration announced an official diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told media.
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 protected].