Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s recent video appearances have done nothing to alleviate concerns about his freedom, according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Peng’s well-being became a matter of international concern nearly three weeks ago after she claimed she was raped by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
The former world number one doubles appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and at a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Peng, 35, organized a Zoom call with the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach.
A WTA spokesperson said today: “It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA’s concerns about his well-being and ability to communicate. without censorship or coercion. ”
When asked about the appeal with the IOC, the spokesperson said: “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into his allegation of sexual assault, which is the problem that has aroused our initial concern. ‘
The former world number one doubles signed giant tennis balls at a children’s tournament in Beijing on Sunday
Peng appeared at a dinner with friends in the Chinese capital on Saturday
Peng joined IOC President Thomas Bach for a Zoom call on Sunday. The IOC said he “was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well”
The IOC said that during the 30-minute call, Peng agreed to join Bach at dinner when he visits Beijing next January – ahead of the Winter Olympics.
He said Peng said she was safe and at home in Beijing and wanted her privacy to be respected at that time.
IOC Athletes’ Commission President Emma Terho joined Bach and Peng on the call and said: “I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well, which was our main concern.
“She seemed relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.
Global human rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over China’s human rights record.
The WTA has also threatened to withdraw tournaments from China over it.
WTA President Steve Simon warned on Sunday that professional women’s tennis was on a collision course with the Chinese state due to its lack of transparency since the rape allegation was made.
After the footage showing Peng having dinner was released, Simon said, “This video alone is insufficient. As I said from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and the causes the allegation of sexual assault to be censored and swept under the rug.
Peng Shuai signs large tennis balls at the opening ceremony of the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger final in Beijing on Sunday
Peng Shuai (second from left) attended the opening ceremony of a Beijing teen tennis final on Sunday morning
“I have been clear on what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times newspaper which has been posting videos and photographs of Peng in Beijing in recent days, said on Twitter Monday that his appearance should be enough to allay the concerns of “those who care. really about the safety of Peng Shuai.
“But for those who aim to attack the Chinese system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, the facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them,” he said.
On November 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that Zhang had forced her into having sex and then had an intermittent consensual relationship.
The post was deleted approximately half an hour after it was posted.
Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government has commented on Peng’s allegations.
Seven people, including Peng, were at the Szechuan restaurant, manager Zhou Hongmei said, adding that they had eaten in a private room and were joined by the restaurant owner.
Ding posted footage of Peng apparently visiting a restaurant in Beijing on Saturday night.
The Chinese State Council’s information office did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent on Monday.
The United States and Britain have asked China to provide evidence of Peng’s whereabouts, and the French foreign minister said on Sunday that Chinese authorities should let Peng speak publicly.
“I am only waiting for one thing: for her to speak,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television, adding that there could be undetermined diplomatic consequences if China does not clarify the situation. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the IOC’s statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, interviewed on Monday during a regular briefing on concerns expressed by France, Britain and the United States, said it was not a Foreign Ministry case, but noted that Peng had recently attended some public activities.
Tennis star Peng Shuai accused former vice premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhang Gaoli, of rape
Peng Shuai, 35, reportedly disappeared when his social media profiles were cleaned up following the accusation
Current and former tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, have also joined calls to confirm she is safe, using the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai?
World No. 1 men’s singles, Novak Djokovic, said it would be strange to hold tournaments in China unless the “horrible” situation was resolved.
The topic has been blocked on China’s heavily censored internet, and the comment sections on all remaining posts on Peng’s official Weibo account, and on many old user posts about him, have been locked.
Some Weibo users have found ways to bypass censors by leaving comments on accounts owned by foreign tennis players or sports commentators. While a number have expressed relief at seeing her reappear this weekend, others have expressed skepticism.
“I hope this is not a staging,” said one of them.