The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) “remains deeply concerned” that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai “has not escaped censorship or coercion.”
In an emailed statement on Saturday, the WTA said CEO Steve Simon attempted to contact Peng “via multiple communication channels,” including two emails “where it was clear that her response was influenced by others.”
Simon has therefore “decided not to re-engage via email until he is satisfied that her response is her own, and not that of her moderators.”
“The WTA remains concerned about her ability to communicate freely, openly and directly,” the statement concluded.
One of China’s most popular sports stars, Peng has publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex at his home, according to a screenshot of a social media post. The association was deleted on 11/2.
After the accusations, Peng disappeared from public view, prompting some fellow tennis players to express concern on social media, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
On November 21, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympic athlete Peng, with participation of a Chinese sports official and an IOC official.
During the call, Peng appeared “fine” and “comfortable”, the statement said, adding that she “wants her privacy to be respected.” The IOC did not explain how the video call with Peng was organized.
However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the IOC’s role in cooperating with the Chinese authorities on the re-emergence of Peng Shuai.
“It’s a whole other level of seeing Thomas Bach, in a picture with a woman, Peng Shuai, under so much pressure, we might reasonably assume from other circumstances, to denied her allegation of sexual assault, instead of trying to do everything in his Power and organization to call for it and ensure that she was able to provide support and investigation and prosecution can be assured,” HRW China Director Sophie Richardson said on November 23.
‘NOBODY CAN ESTABLISH CONTACTS’
Longtime IOC member Dick Pound told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week that he was “confused” by the reaction to the video call between Peng and Bach.
“Basically a lot of people around the world are wanting to see what happened to Peng Shuai and no one has been able to establish contact.
“Only the IOC can do so and had a video chat with Thomas Bach, an older Olympic athlete, and two younger female members of the IOC. No one released the video because of me. guess that aspect is private.
“They found her in good health and in good spirits and they saw no evidence of detention or anything like that.”
Pound added that he has not seen the recording of the video call, but is “simply relying on the combined judgment of the three IOC members present on the call.”
Zhang has remained private and has not appeared in public since retiring in 2018, and there is no public information regarding his current whereabouts.
Before retiring as vice premier, Zhang was the head of the Chinese government’s working group for the Beijing Games. In this role, he inspected venues, visited athletes, announced official logos and held meetings to coordinate preparations.
Zhang previously met Bach, the president of the IOC, who held a video call with Peng where, at least once, the two were photographed shaking hands in the Chinese capital in 2016.