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Skepticism over Peng Shuai’s freedom voiced by WTA chief, journalist who interviewed her

Peng Shuai interview
Peng Shuai interview
  • A picture taken during Peng Shuai’s first in-person interview with Western media since her disappearance late last year showed Chinese Olympics Committee Chief of Staff Wang Kan in the background.

  • Marc Ventouillac, one of the L’Equipe reporters who interviewed Peng, said the 36-year-old athlete “seems to be healthy.” However, he admitted it was “impossible to say” if the three-time Olympian is truly “free to say and do what she wants.”

  • “It’s important, I think, for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the Communist Party and for many people in China to try to show: ‘No, there is no Peng Shuai affair,'” he said.

  • Women’s Tennis Association Chief Executive Steve Simon said Peng’s interview with the French magazine “does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2.”

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Chinese Olympics Committee Chief of Staff Wang Kan was reportedly spotted near Peng Shuai during a rare interview with French sports magazine L’Equipe over the weekend.

A picture taken during the interview shows Wang’s reflection in a mirror, with him standing across Peng, 36, during her first Western media interview since her alleged disappearance in November 2021, New York Post reported.

Wang acted as a translator for Peng, who spoke in Chinese during her interview with the French magazine even though she reportedly spoke English during previous press conferences. Peng reiterated her previous statement during the interview with the French magazine in which she denied accusations she made against vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, as NextShark previously reported. The three-time Olympian accused Zhang of sexual coercion last November in a lengthy, now-deleted Weibo post. 

This post has given rise to a huge misunderstanding from the outside world,” she told L’Equipe. “I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more hype on this.”

Marc Ventouillac, one of the two journalists who interviewed Peng in Beijing, admitted that he was unsure if the Chinese tennis star is truly “free to say and do what she wants,” telling the Associated Press that it was “impossible to say.”

However, Ventouillac said it was clear to him that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted to put the issue to rest and to show the world that there is allegedly nothing wrong with Peng.

It’s a part of communication, propaganda, from the Chinese Olympic Committee,” he told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s important, I think, for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the Communist Party and for many people in China to try to show: ‘No, there is no Peng Shuai affair.”

“She answered our questions without hesitating — with, I imagine, answers that she knew. She knew what she was going to say,” Ventouillac added.

Steve Simon, the chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, is suspicious about Peng’s recent interview, saying it “does not alleviate any of our concerns,” according to Sky News. The tennis association also asked to have a private meeting with the star athlete.

Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, claimed the interview is an example of CCP “propaganda” and warned anyone who would like to interview the athlete to think again before reaching out to her since “she can’t speak freely,” Daily Mail reported.

Editors of L’Equipe were reportedly aware that the interview with Peng would be “carefully controlled,” but they continued to go through with it to see if the athlete was in good physical health. Speaking to the Associated Press, Ventouillac said Peng “seems to be healthy.”

Featured Image via Claude Truong-Ngoc (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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