WTA says Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's call with Olympic chief 'not enough'

Published November 22, 2021
A handout photo posted on the International Olympic Committee website shows IOC President Thomas Bach holding a video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai on Sunday. — AFP
A handout photo posted on the International Olympic Committee website shows IOC President Thomas Bach holding a video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai on Sunday. — AFP

Chinese tennis star 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) concern about her well-being, the WTA said on Monday.

The whereabouts of Peng, a former doubles world number one, became a matter of international concern nearly three weeks ago, after she alleged that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

She appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and a children's tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, photographs and videos published by Chinese state media journalists and by the tournament's organisers show. But they have done little to quell concerns.

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

Read more: US, UN demand proof of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's well-being

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 IOC said in a statement that Peng held a 30-minute call with its president Thomas Bach on Sunday during which she said she was safe and well at home in Beijing, and wanted to have her privacy respected for now.

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.

Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-owned newspaper Global Times who has in recent days posted videos and photographs of Peng in Beijing, said on Twitter on Monday that her appearance should be enough to ease worries of “those who truly care about (the) safety of Peng Shuai.

“But for those aiming to attack China's system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don't work for them,” he said.

On Nov. 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that Zhang had coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship. The post 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. China's State Council Information office and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent on Monday.

France's foreign minister called on Sunday for Chinese authorities to let Peng speak publicly.

“I'm expecting 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.

The United States and Britain have also called for China to provide proof of Peng's whereabouts. Current and former tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King joined the calls seeking to confirm she was safe, using the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai?

Men's singles world No.1 Novak Djokovic said it would be strange to hold tournaments in China unless the “horrific” situation was resolved.

Editorial

27 Nov 2021

Supporting ECP

ALTHOUGH the government bulldozed legislation on electronic voting machines through parliament, the reality is that...
27 Nov 2021

Forgiving the Taliban

IF there is one takeaway from Thursday’s gathering of more than 1,000 Shia Hazaras in Kabul, it is the call given...
Living in fear
Updated 27 Nov 2021

Living in fear

THE registration of a blasphemy case against four members of a family from a village on the outskirts of Lahore has...
26 Nov 2021

State Bank’s projections

THE macroeconomic projections listed by the State Bank of Pakistan in its annual report on the nation’s economy...
Ad distribution
Updated 26 Nov 2021

Ad distribution

If present govt can muster will to achieve this task it would set a solid precedent that no future govt would find easy to undo.
26 Nov 2021

Messy passengers

NEWS that passengers on a PIA flight from Manchester to Islamabad left so much litter on the plane that it led to a...