EU's bold demand for 'verifiable proof' of Peng Shuai's safety

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·Sports Reporter
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Concerns have mounted for the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after she accused a senior government official of sexual assault.
The European Union has called on China to provide 'verifiable proof' of tennis player Peng Shuai's safety, after she accused a senior government official of sexual assault. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

China has again come under pressure to confirm the health and safety of tennis player Peng Shuai, with the European Union calling for the nation to provide proper evidence of her wellbeing and freedom.

The true whereabouts and safety of Peng has been called into question after the three-time Olympian disappeared from public life shortly after accusing a senior Communist Party official of sexual assault.

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Concerns about her safety were only amplified when Chinese authorities released what they claimed was an email from Peng to the WTA, in which she supposedly assured them of her safety.

This evidence was met with scepticism from sporting figures across the world, with China under continued pressure to show more transparency via an investigation into her claims and substantial proof of her safety.

The WTA has already raised the prospect of no longer holding tournaments in China of her safety is not able to be properly verified, with the EU's calls only adding to the pressure on the Chinese government.

The EU has said it wants to see 'verifiable proof' of Peng's safety in the nation.

Public appearances from Peng have been extremely limited since making her allegations against the official, with a heavily criticised video call between herself and Olympic officials late in November her only true public appearance.

An EU spokesperson said the release of the video call was not sufficient evidence she was being treated appropriately.

“Her recent public reappearance does not ease concerns about her safety and freedom," they said.

The EU's statement is one of the strongest yet from an international body, with China remaining under pressure to provide more details about her wellbeing.

“The EU joins growing international demands, including by sport professionals, for assurances that she is free and not under threat,” the EU said in a statement. 

“In this spirit, the EU requests the Chinese government to provide verifiable proof of Peng Shuai’s safety, well-being and whereabouts. 

"The EU urges the Chinese authorities to conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault."

IOC official's 'embarrassing' Peng Shuai interview slammed

Long-serving International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound has been savaged by viewers over an interview with CNN about the plight of Chinese tennis star Peng.

Peng spoke with IOC president Thomas Bach on a video call in an attempt to reassure the international community of her safety.

Sunday's call with IOC president Bach, athletes commission chair Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Association, was Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on November 2.

While the video provided proof that Peng is alive, it did little to alleviate concerns from the WTA and human rights groups that she is being controlled by China.

Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, said the video appeared "highly orchestrated" and "staged" and tweeted that the IOC was "actively playing a role in the Chinese government’s enforced disappearance, coercion and propaganda machinery".

Wang said it followed a pattern of China silencing high-profile dissenters and “erasing inconvenient truths,” then forcing the oppressed to appear on video to recant allegations, admit to crimes or tell the public that they are safe and well.

A 50-50 image of Peng Shuai and Zhang Gaolie.
There has been serious concern among the international sporting community for the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who accused senior Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault several weeks ago. (Photo by PAUL CROCK,ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP via Getty Images)

"Given the context,” Wang said of Sunday’s IOC call, “it's highly unlikely this is done out of Peng Shuai's free will."

Pound - who is one of the IOC's most senior officials - appeared in an interview on CNN to say he was "puzzled" by the global reaction to the IOC video.

“I must say I’m really puzzled by that assessment of it,” Pound told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in response to the criticism.

“Basically, lots of people around the world were looking to see what happened to Peng Shuai and nobody was able to establish contact.

“Only the IOC was able to do so, and there was a conversation that was held by video with Thomas Bach, who’s an older Olympian, and two younger female IOC members. Nobody’s released the video because I guess that aspect of it was private.

“They found her in good health and in good spirits and they saw no evidence of confinement or anything like that.”

CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour then pressed Pound on why the IOC hasn't released the video to the public and questioned whether Peng may have been censored off camera by Chinese officials.

With agencies

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