EU asks China for 'verifiable proof' that tennis star Peng Shuai is safe

The European Union on Tuesday called on Beijing to provide “verifiable proof” of the wellbeing and whereabouts of Chinese tennis champion Peng Shuai amid an international outcry of concern for the athlete's safety. 

The EU statement adds to growing scrutiny of the Chinese Communist Party over concerns that Peng’s recent appearances are being tightly controlled by the government in an effort to bury the athlete's public allegations of sexual assault against a former Chinese vice premier. 

“The EU joins growing international demands, including by sport professionals, for assurances that she is free and not under threat,” the statement read. 

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“In this spirit, the EU requests the Chinese government to provide verifiable proof of Peng Shuai’s safety, well-being and whereabouts. The EU urges the Chinese authorities to conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.” 

The EU statement further slams Beijing for “the practice of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, especially through the instrument of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), and calls upon China to comply with its human rights obligations under national and international law.” 

Peng’s allegations and apparent disappearance has raised pressure on international governments and organizations to pressure Beijing more firmly on human rights ahead of it hosting the Winter Olympics in February. 

The EU, along with the U.S., has levied sanctions against China over human rights abuses, including its state-sponsored oppression and surveillance of the Uyghur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, which the U.S. and other governments have determined amount to genocide; its crackdown on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong; and other concerns.

Biden administration officials have said they are following Peng's case closely but have refrained from addressing how the U.S. will handle participation in the Winter Olympics.

The Chinese government often criticizes the international community as meddling in internal Chinese affairs when concerns are raised over human rights. 

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Peng’s allegations were posted on Chinese social media on Nov. 2 and reportedly deleted minutes after they went live. The tennis athlete largely disappeared from public view, raising concern among international athletes, organizations and foreign governments that the Olympic medalist was being silenced and detained against her will. 

A video call held between Peng and officials with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Nov. 22 did little to quell the concern over the tennis champion’s wellbeing.

The Women’s Tennis Association called the video “insufficient” to confirm Peng’s safety and threatened to pull their business from the country absent assurances for the tennis star’s wellbeing.

U.S. lawmakers wrote to IOC officials calling on them to press further for proof of Peng’s safety, pressure Beijing to investigate her allegations of sexual assault and push for the Chinese to address criticisms over the country's human rights abuses.