Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Calls aimed at allaying Peng’s safety following allegations of sexual assault are not enough, the world body said.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai’s video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not address or alleviate the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) concerns about her well-being, the association said.

A WTA spokesman said in an email on Monday that it was positive to see Peng, a former doubles world number one, in recent videos, but that there were concerns about the star’s well-being and whether his censored or forced.

Asked about the call with the IOC, the WTA spokesperson 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 to our initial concern. ”

The IOC said in a statement that Peng had a 30-minute call with his president, Thomas Bach, on Sunday, saying she was safe and well at home in Beijing and that she wanted to respect her privacy for the time being.

Peng’s whereabouts became a matter of international concern almost three weeks ago after she claimed that China’s former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

On November 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that Zhang forced her to have sex and that they later had an on-off consensual relationship. The post was deleted about half an hour after it was posted.

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked about the concern during a regular briefing on Monday, said it was not a matter for the foreign ministry, but noted that Peng recently attended some public activities.

She did appear at a dinner with friends on Saturday and a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, showing photos and videos published by Chinese state media journalists and by the tournament’s organizers. But they did little to silence concerns.

World rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics over China’s human rights record. The WTA also threatened to withdraw tournaments from China on the matter.

Hu Xijin, editor of the state-run Global Times, which has been posting videos and photos of Peng in Beijing in recent days, said on Twitter on Monday that her appearance should be enough to alleviate concerns of “those who truly care about (the) safety of Peng Shuai.

“But for those who are aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, do not work for them,” he said.

Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government commented on Peng’s allegations. China’s state intelligence office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, which was sent Monday.

The United States and Britain have called on China to provide evidence of Peng’s whereabouts and France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Chinese authorities should let Peng speak in public.

“I expect only one thing: that she speaks,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television, adding that there could be unspecified diplomatic consequences if China did not clear up the situation. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the IOC’s statement.

Current and former tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, also joined the calls to confirm that she is safe, through the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai?

Novak Djokovic, number 1, for men’s singles, said it would be strange to hold tournaments in China unless the “awful” situation is resolved.

The topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s highly censored internet and the comment sections on all remaining posts on Peng’s official Weibo account, and on numerous old posts by users about her, have been closed.

Some Weibo users have found ways to get the censors by commenting on accounts belonging to foreign tennis players or sports commentators. While some expressed relief to see her appear again over the weekend, others said they were skeptical.

“I do not hope it will be performed,” said one.

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