Major issue exposed in video showing Peng Shuai 'safe and well'

This picture shows Peng Shuai in a video call on the left and playing in a tennis match on the right.
The WTA says despite Peng Shuai's video call with the IOC, serious questions around the Chinese star remain unanswered. Pic: AAP/Getty

The governing body of women's tennis says while it has been "good" to see Peng Shuai appear in a recent video declaring that she's "safe and well", it has not alleviated their concerns for the Chinese star.

Peng - whose disappearance after making sexual assault allegations against a powerful Chinese politician has created headlines around the world - spoke with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in a video call to assure him that she's OK.

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The 30-minute call came after Peng accused Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the Communist Party’s ruling Standing Committee, of sexually assaulting her.

On November 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that former vice-premier Zhang had coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.

She was not seen or heard of in public for weeks in the aftermath of the allegations, which were since removed from the social media platform.

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 wellbeing."

Seen on the left, IOC president Thomas Bach speaks with Peng Shuai on a video call.
Peng Shuai held a 30-minute video call with IOC president Thomas Bach. Image: Getty

“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.”

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is pictured here returning a shot during a match.
The plight of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has become one of global concern. Pic: Getty

World concerned about Peng Shuai situation

The whereabouts of former doubles World No.1 Peng has been a matter of international concern for nearly three weeks, Chinese state media doing its best to allay the world's fears.

Social media posts from China appeared to show Peng at a dinner with friends on Saturday and at a children's tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday but concerns have remained about whether they were staged and how much freedom the Chinese star actually has.

The WTA said in a statement that while the most recent video with the IOC is a positive development, major questions about her sexual assault allegations and censorship by China's state media remain unanswered.

"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," a WTA spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Asked about the call with the IOC, the spokeswoman 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 our initial concern."

The concern over Peng comes as global rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February over China's human rights record.

The WTA has also threatened to pull tournaments out of China over the matter.

Peng's initial post about the sexual assault allegations was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.

Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on Peng's allegations.

The United States and Britain subsequently called for China to provide proof of Peng's whereabouts and leading tennis players such as Serena Williams, Noami Osaka, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have all expressed concern about her wellbeing.

with agencies

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