GENEVA (AFP) – The International Olympics Committee said Sunday (Nov 21) its president had had a 30-minute video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, as international pressure mounted for information about her wellbeing.
“Today, IOC President Thomas Bach held a video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China,” the organisation said in a statement.
“At the beginning of the 30-minute call, Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being,” it said, adding that “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”.
“That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.” The call came amid international concern for Peng’s wellbeing after she disappeared from public after alleging earlier this month that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, now in his 70s, forced her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years.
Following a global outcry, including from tennis superstars and the United Nations, Chinese state media reporters have released a flurry of footage purporting to show all is well with Peng.
And official event photos showed she appeared earlier Sunday at a Beijing tennis tournament.
Bach had been accompanied on the call with her Sunday by the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei, who had known Peng for many years from her time in the Chinese Tennis Federation, the IOC statement said.
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” Terho said.
“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.” The call ended, the statement said, with Bach inviting Peng “for a dinner once he arrives in Beijing next January, which she gladly accepted, and the two agreed to include Emma Terho and Li Lingwei”.
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