Peng Shuai ‘reconfirms’ she’s safe and healthy on second call with IOC, Olympic organizer says

By Amy Woodyatt, Ben Morse and Nectar Gan, CNN

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a second call with Peng Shuai on Wednesday and said the Chinese tennis star had “reconfirmed” that she was safe and well under the “difficult circumstances” she was facing, the sports organization said on Thursday.

One of China’s most famous sports stars, Peng has publicly accused a former top Communist Party official, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, of forcing her to have sex at his home. 3 years ago in a social media post deleted on 11/2.

Peng was immediately blanket censored and disappeared from public view for more than two weeks, prompting the women’s tennis world to demand answers about her whereabouts – as well as a full investigation into the allegations. her ties to Zhang.

Amid growing global outcry, individuals working for China’s government-controlled media and state-run sports system have released a number of “live proof” photos and videos. “About Peng.

21, the IOC said in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, held a 30-minute video call with three-time athlete Peng appearing “well done” and “comfortable” “, saying that she “wants to have her privacy respected.” The IOC did not explain how to hold a video call with Peng and has not made the video public.

The IOC on Thursday said it had offered “widespread support” to the tennis star and pledged to stay in regular contact with her, adding that it had “agreed on a personal meeting in September”. January”.

The IOC also told CNN it did not provide any visual content about Wednesday’s second video call amid growing skepticism about how Peng was allowed to freely communicate, as well as anxiety. for her safety.

NS Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on Wednesday announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, in response to Beijing’s silence on sexual assault allegations.

WTA President and CEO Steve Simon said the decision was based on an “unacceptable” response by Chinese officials, including hastily censoring Peng’s allegations and ignoring calls to Call for a full and transparent investigation.

“In good conscience, I do not understand how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to socialize freely and appears to have been pressured to refute the allegations. sexually assaulted her,” said Simon.

“Given the current situation, I am also very worried about the risks that all our players and staff may face if we hold events in China in 2022.”

Beijing hit back at the decision, with the Global Times, China’s state-run newspaper, accusing the WTA of “setting a bad example for the whole sports world”, in a highly critical editorial published. on Thursday.

This section called the WTA decision an “exaggeration”, intended to act as “leverage of Western public opinion against China’s political system”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin added: “China firmly opposes any action that politicizes sports.”

“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious problem in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I really doubt that she is free, safe, and free from censorship, coercion, and threats,” Simon said.

Longtime IOC member Dick Pound said the “unanimous conclusion” of those on the November 21 call with Peng was that she was fine, adding that he was “confused” by the international response for the call.

Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s charges against Zhang – who has faded from public life since retiring in 2018 – and there is no indication that an investigation is underway. conduct. It remains unclear whether Peng will report his allegations to the police.

Than to follow.

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CNN’s Aleks Klosk contributed reporting. Peng Shuai ‘reconfirms’ she’s safe and healthy on second call with IOC, Olympic organizer says


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