Missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has told Thomas Bach that she is "safe and well" in a video call with the International Olympic Committee boss on Sunday.
The 30-minute call came amid growing global concern over Peng and her whereabouts after she accused a former leading Communist Party official of sexual assault.
'WAIT AND SEE': Novak Djokovic responds to Australian Open news
'THIS IS CRAZY': Fans in disbelief over 'insane' Djokovic drama
China's ruling Communist Party has tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng.
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, appears to be Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on November 2.
The IOC said in a statement that Peng “thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being."
“She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," the statement said.
"That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now."
Bach said he invited Peng to join him at a dinner when he arrives in Beijing in January, “which she gladly accepted".
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” Terho said in the IOC statement.
“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.”
Concerns for Peng Shuai after sexual assault allegations
Peng, a former Wimbledon doubles champion and World No.1, made the sexual assault allegation on Chinese social media three weeks ago against Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the Communist Party’s ruling Standing Committee.
That post was removed within minutes and the Peng went missing from public view.
She did not respond publicly to calls for information to show she was safe.
Photos of Peng posted on Sunday by the China Open on the Weibo social media service made no mention of her disappearance or her accusation.
account w/ less than 1k followers, last original tweet in 2012, and last rt from 2017. claims that peng shuai is with him at an "influencer restaurant in beijing" for dinner. everybody and their grandma coming out to say that peng shuai is okay except for peng shuai herself https://t.co/ds2dAo11xg
— Aurora Chang 張瓊方 🗡️ (@aurorachaang) November 21, 2021
The former Wimbledon champion was shown standing beside a court, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children at a junior tennis tournament.
Chinese state media has also posted a number of photos and videos of Peng in recent days, including some showing her out to dinner with her coach and friends.
Of the restaurant videos, WTA boss Steve Simon said he was glad to see the images but "it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference".
"This video alone is insufficient," Simon said in a statement.
"I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."
A WTA spokeswoman later said that Sunday's images from the Beijing tournament still did not address their concerns.
A journalist from Sky News visited both the stadium and the restaurant where Peng allegedly appeared. Staff at both sites confirmed she was there. But unsure about her circumstances. https://t.co/6ZlcT2BaL0
— Aadil Brar (@aadilbrar) November 21, 2021
— Dr. Leta Hong Fincher 洪理达 (@LetaHong) November 19, 2021
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.