China

IOC says it held second call with Peng Shuai

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Thursday it has held another video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai amid ongoing concerns after she appeared to go missing last month in the wake of sexual assault allegations she made against a top Beijing official.

“We share the same concern as many other people and organisations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai. 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,” the IOC said in a statement.

“There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations,” it continued.

“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.”

Early in November, Peng accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in 2018 on her Weibo account. A few weeks later, fellow professional tennis players including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams began calling attention to Peng after it was reported that she had gone missing.

Peng’s situation garnered international concern, including from the White House and The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Soon after, calls were made for confirmation of Peng’s status, Chinese state media began releasing photos of her online.

In mid-November, the IOC held a video call with Peng, during which she assured them that she was safe and well in Beijing. However, the WTA expressed discontent with this communication, saying it did not fully alleviate concerns.

On Wednesday, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon announced that his organization would be suspending all of its tennis tournaments in China, saying he does not believe Peng is being allowed to speak freely.

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback,” Simon said.

“As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. 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,” he said.

“Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

Tags Beijing China International Olympic Committee IOC Peng Shuai professional tennis Sexual assault sexual assault allegations Sexual misconduct Tennis Weibo Women's Tennis Association WTA

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