Chinese athlete Peng Shuai, missing over two weeks after MeToo allegations, reemerges in private video call

Tennis star Peng Shuai appears in IOC video

For the first time since her weeks-long disappearance, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has finally reappeared, telling International Olympics Committee (IOC) officials that she is “safe and well” during a 30-minute private video call.

The video call: Peng, 35, spoke to IOC President Thomas Bach, Athletes Commission Chair Emma Terho and Li Lingwei, an IOC member and former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Association, during the call on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

  • The athlete reportedly “thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being” during the call, the IOC said in a statement.
  • “She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now,” the statement added.
  • Bach shared that Peng “gladly accepted” his dinner invitation, which also included Terho and Li and will occur during his visit to Beijing in January, ahead of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
  • Terho, a Finnish hockey player who represents athletes on the IOC executive board, said the former Wimbledon champion looked “relaxed” during the call. “I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated,” Terho added.
  • It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a spokesperson for the Women’s Tennis Association told CNN after Peng’s call with the IOC. 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.”

Sudden public appearances: Several pictures showing Peng relaxing inside her home  circulated on Chinese social media on Friday, which ignited more skepticism, Sky News reported.

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  • Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, confirmed the legitimacy of the photos on Twitter on Saturday, claimeing that the tennis star allegedly “stayed in her own home freely” and “did not want to be disturbed.”

  • Videos of Peng attending a dinner event with China Open tournament Co-Director Zhang Junhui and two women were also released on Saturday. A man named Ding Li allegedly tweeted the dinner was at Beijing Yibin Guesthouse, the same restaurant featured in the video posted by Hu.

  • Zhang, who can be seen in the clip, specifically notes the dates while talking. “Yes, this year is different from last year because of the pandemic. Originally, we planned to have 10 tours in three months, isn’t tomorrow November 20?” Zhang asked. However, one of the women answered his question and stated the correct date. 
  • Oh, November 21, tomorrow is November 21, we will have the final game at Zuanshi,” Zhang continued. “So the players in tomorrow’s game are the champions during the past nine tours in the past three months. You can see it’s Sunday, at the end of November, so it’s like a year-end final.”
  • Although WTA President Steve Simon was relieved to see Peng in the videos, he said that it still “remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference.”
  • Peng allegedly attended a tennis event for teenagers in Beijing on Sunday where she signed oversized tennis balls for young tennis fans. The videos from the alleged event were, again, shared by Hu on Twitter.

What happened: Peng’s mysterious and sudden disappearance following a scandalous post accusing Zhang Gaoli, a former CCP official, on Nov. 2 of sexual coercion became a cause for concern among the international tennis community.

  • Many tennis stars used the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai on Twitter to raise awareness about her safety. The WTA also announced its willingness to pull out of China amid the tennis star’s disappearance.
  • Before the surge of pictures and videos of Peng’s public appearance, state-run CGTN reportedly published an email claiming to be from the three-time Olympian and stating that she was “resting at home and everything is fine.”

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian refused to comment on Peng’s accusation against Zhang during a press conference on Monday, CNN reported. Zhao explained the issue was not diplomatic.
  • Senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Maya Wang, said in a statement that what is happening is “essentially a state-controlled narrative,” explaining the government and media affiliates were the ones responsible for creating the content about Peng.

Featured Image via Robbie Mendelson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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