Concerns mount over Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai
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The IOC has revealed it has held a second video call with Peng Shuai as worries linger over her safety. The Chinese tennis star’s wellbeing has been a cause for concern for a month, after she accused a high-ranking politician of sexual assault.
The 35-year-old posted on social media site Weibo to describe an alleged affair she had with former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, and also alleged that he had sexually abused her.
She went missing for around two weeks afterwards, with the post and all mention of Peng’s allegations scrubbed from the Chinese internet.
After an international outcry, state media in the country broke its silence and offered up several pieces of ‘proof’ that she was safe and well.
Those photos and videos were deemed insufficient by some bodies including the WTA and the EU, as was a 30-minute video call she took part in with IOC president Thomas Bach.
The Olympic body has now revealed it has held a second such virtual meeting with the tennis ace, with an in-person meeting planned for the New Year.
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It is, the IOC said, part of its plan to use “quiet diplomacy” to resolve this issue.
“We share the same concern as many other people and organisations about the wellbeing and safety of Peng Shuai,” a statement from the body read.
“This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her.
“We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.
“There are different ways to achieve her wellbeing and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation.
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“Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations.
“We are using ‘quiet diplomacy’, which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.
“The IOC’s efforts led to a half-hour video conference with Peng Shuai on November 21, during which she explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in.
“This was reconfirmed in yesterday’s call. Our human and person-centred approach means that we continue to be concerned about her personal situation and will continue to support her.”
The IOC’s revelation comes after the WTA announced on Wednesday it had immediately suspended all tournaments in China as a result of the country’s failure to address the situation.
The WTA’s chief executive Steve Simon has been praised for taking decisive action in the matter.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” his statement read.
In contrast, the ATP’s response was labelled ’embarrassing’ as their statement, which came a day later, came with no punitive measures or explicit condemnation of China’s actions.
The three-paragraph statement contained no mention of Peng’s allegations of sexual assault, and did not even mention the word ‘China’.
Men’s singles player Reilly Opelka responded to the ATP statement by sarcastically labelling it as “powerful”, while British female tennis player Tara Moore called on the body to “do better”.
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