Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said she was safe and healthy during a video call with the head of the International Olympic Committee on Sunday, the organization said, as the international community worried about her. well-being after his explosive allegations of sexual assault. At the start of a 30-minute call with IOC President Thomas Bach, “Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for its concern for his well-being,” the organization said in a statement. “She explained that she was fine and that she was living at her home in Beijing, but that she would like her privacy to be respected for the time being,” he said.
“That’s why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family at the moment. Nonetheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.”
Earlier on Sunday, Peng was seen attending a tennis tournament in Beijing, in official photos from the event, marking her first public appearance since she brought charges against the former vice premier. Minister Zhang Gaoli, and they were removed from the Chinese Internet.
The 35-year-old two-time Grand Slam doubles champion claimed earlier this month that Gaoli, now 70, had forced her to have sex during an intermittent relationship s ‘spanning several years.
Following a global outcry, including from tennis superstars and the United Nations, reporters from Chinese state media released a series of footage purportedly showing all is well for Peng.
A video from the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals event, tweeted by Global Times newspaper editor Hu Xijin, shows Peng standing in a stadium among a group of guests whose names are announced to applause.
A Global Times reporter tweeted another video showing Peng signing autographs for children at what appears to be the same stadium before posing for photos with them.
Hu also posted two more videos on Saturday, the first showing Peng entering a restaurant wearing a coat, knitted cap and face mask, and the second of a maskless Peng sitting at a table chatting with people around. a meal.
AFP could not verify the authenticity of the videos.
Hu tweeted in English that the second video shows “Peng Shuai having dinner with his trainer and friends at a restaurant. The contents of the video clearly show that they are shot on Saturday Beijing time.”
The cat seems to be staged. Peng appears relaxed in the footage, which appears to have been taken with a cell phone, but those accompanying him try to emphasize the date in somewhat staid comments.
Peng’s demands against Zhang were the first time China’s #MeToo movement has reached the top echelons of the ruling Communist Party.
They were quickly removed from the Twitter-like Weibo platform, and concerns about its security have escalated since then.
The Women’s Tennis Association has threatened to end lucrative contracts with China unless they know about Peng’s safety.
On the restaurant’s videos, WTA boss Steve Simon said he was happy to see the footage but “it is not clear if she is free and able to make decisions and act by her. – even, without coercion or external interference “.
âThis video alone is insufficient,â Simon said in a statement.
“I have been clear on what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
A WTA spokeswoman later told AFP that Sunday’s footage of the Beijing tournament still did not address their concerns.
IOC Athletes’ Commission President Emma Terho nonetheless expressed relief after Sunday’s video call, in which she participated.
âI was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well, which was our main concern,â Terho said in the IOC statement.
âShe seemed relaxed. I offered to support her and keep in touch anytime she saw fit, which she obviously appreciated.â
“Independent and verifiable evidence”
A growing chorus of voices in the sports world and beyond have demanded answers about Peng’s situation.
US President Joe Biden’s press secretary said his administration wanted China to “provide independent and verifiable proof” of his whereabouts.
The British Foreign Office also said it was “extremely concerned” and urged China to release verifiable evidence, while the French Foreign Minister said she should be allowed to speak freely for clarify his situation.
The United Nations insisted that a fully transparent investigation be conducted into Peng’s allegations.
Some of the biggest names in tennis have spoken out on the case, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka.
Peng represented China at the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro and won gold for China at the 2010 Asian Games.
She is a former Wimbledon and Roland Garros doubles champion.
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