WTA officials skeptical about recent Peng Shuai video call with IOC president

Although footage of tennis star Peng Shuai recently resurfaced with the Chinese player having a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the WTA still has reason to be concerned about her wellbeing.

The IOC said in a statement that Peng held a 30-minute call with its president, Thomas Bach, on Sunday, during which she said she was safe and well at home in Beijing and wanted to have her privacy respected for now. However, this has done little to quell the concerns of the WTA.

"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokesperson said.

Asked about the call with the IOC, the spokesperson said: “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”

Shuai was not seen or heard from following her accusations against retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli three weeks ago, alleging that he had sexually assaulted her at his home three years ago. However, she appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, photographs and videos published by Chinese state media journalists and by the tournament’s organizers.

Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-owned newspaper Global Times who has in recent days posted videos and photographs of Peng in Beijing, said on Twitter on Monday that her appearance should be enough to ease worries of “those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai”.

“But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them,” said Xijin.

Global rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February over China’s human rights record. The WTA has also threatened to pull tournaments out of China over the matter.

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