Peng Shuai’s interview with IOC raises more questions

Without public interest for nearly three weeks, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai appeared on a video call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

The IOC and the Chinese government want this to be the end of the Peng story, which began on 2 November when she accused former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

That may be wishful thinking on their part.

The interview gives some details, doesn’t follow up on her allegations and invites further questions to the IOC, Peng and China.

That seems unlikely to please Steve Simon, the president and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association, who has been outspoken in his criticism of China and threatened to pull all top WTA events from the country. this.

Even after the IOC video was released on Sunday, the WTA echoed what Simon had said for more than a week, calling for a full, fair and transparent investigation “without censorship.”

According to the IOC, Peng held a 30-minute call with Bach, and he recounted in a statement that she was “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but wanted her privacy.” She’s respected at this point.”

The IOC said Bach invited Peng, a former No. 1 doubles and three-time Olympic champion, to dinner when he was in town to oversee the fraught Beijing Winter Olympics. opens on February 4th.

Not only has the IOC been embroiled in this scandal, but it has also been widely criticized for advancing to the Olympics despite accusations of ongoing crimes against humanity against Uighur Muslims, Western Tibetans and other ethnic minorities.

Yaqiu Wang, a China-born spokesman for Human Rights Watch, tweeted that the IOC is now “actively playing a role in the Chinese government’s propaganda, coercion and disappearance machine. “

The interest in Peng from the WTA and many of its top and retired players – Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova – and the global attention on the #WhereIsPengShuai social media movement have put pressure on China, even as news of her allegations was blacked out at home.

CNN reports that their signal in China was blocked around the coverage of Peng.

A search of her name on Monday on Weibo, one of China’s top social media platforms, turned up only a handful of posts about her, and they made no mention of the sexual assault allegation. or questions about her whereabouts.

China Open posted a photo with her at Sunday’s junior tournament, but didn’t mention her in the caption.

Still missing is Zhang. He left public life about three years ago after being one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee – the pinnacle of political power in China.

The effort to silence Peng reflects the ruling Communist Party’s determination to quash criticism of its leaders. Athletes are particularly politically sensitive because they are famous, admired for their accomplishments, and used to promote party success.

A three-time athlete, Peng accused Zhang of sexual assault on social media in China and was immediately taken down on the heavily censored internet. She also described having a consensual relationship with Chinese officials.

She wrote a paragraph: “I know it for you, vice minister Zhang Gaoli, a person of high status and power, you said that you are not afraid. With your intelligence, you will definitely deny it. it or can even use it against me you can dismiss it without care Even when I’m destroying myself, like throwing an egg on a rock, or a moth flying in fire, I will still tell the truth about us.”

The IOC could argue that “silent diplomacy” worked and gave China a way to save face. On the other hand, this makes the IOC an active partner in conveying Beijing’s message, without forcing Peng to give an open interview about her allegations.

While the IOC considers itself an NGO, it’s a sports business – like the WTA or the NBA – that generates 91% of its income from sponsors and selling broadcast rights.

The WTA is the first sports body to stand firm against China’s financial influence, in sharp contrast to the IOC, which says it is powerless to interfere in China’s internal policies.

“The statements make the IOC complicit with the Chinese regime’s malicious propaganda and lack of regard for fundamental human rights and justice,” said Global Athlete, a lobbying group for athletes, said in a statement.

“The IOC shows complete disregard for allegations of violence and sexual abuse against athletes,” the statement said. “By taking a nonchalant approach to Peng Shuai’s disappearance and by refusing to address her egregious allegations of sexual assault, IOC President Thomas Bach and the IOC Athletes Committee shows a disgusted indifference to sexual violence and the well-being of female athletes.”

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