December 3, 2021, 14:33

    WTA insists Peng Shuai’s IOC video call does “not alleviate or address concerns”

    WTA insists Peng Shuai’s IOC video call does “not alleviate or address concerns”

    Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai'svideo call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not allayed concerns over her wellbeing, insists the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

    The 35-year-old has not been seen in public after accusing the former Chinese Communist Party vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault on November 2nd on social media site Weibo.

    Concerns have continued to grow over her safety and whereabouts, with many leading figures within tennis, including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Serena Williams expressing their worries over her wellbeing.

    However, the Editor-in-chief of Chinese Hu Xijin media outlet Global Times recently released a video to Twitter, claiming to show the tennis star at a Beijing tennis tournament.

    Peng Shuai talks to IOC president Thomas Bach during a video call

    OIS/IOC/AFP via Getty Images)

    Before this, he had posted two clips of the 2013 Wimbledon doubles champion allegedly having dinner in Beijing on Saturday too, but the clips have done little to quell concerns.

    The IOC then released a statement revealing that Peng had held a 30-minute video call with president Thomas Bach on Sunday.

    "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," the Olympic governing body's statement read.

    "That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

    However, the WTA are still concerned about her wellbeing and have reiterated their stance for a "fair and transparent investigation" into her sexual assault allegation.

    The WTA have since issued a statement of their own following the IOC's 30-minute video call on Sunday.

    "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 in an email on Monday.

    Then when asked specifically about the call with the IOC, the spokesperson added: "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."

    Athletes Commission chairman Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei – former vice-president of the Chinese Tennis Association – were also on the video call on the weekend.

    Peng has not been seen in person since posting a lengthy message on Weibo in which she alleged 75-year-old Gaoli of sexual assault.

    Peng Shuai reportedly appeared at a Beijing tennis tournament

    In the November 2nd post, Peng alleged she had an on-off-extra marital affair with Zhang for several years before he cut ties with her as he rose through the ranks in China's communist party.

    Several years later, Peng claims, Zhang invited her to his and his wife's house to play tennis, which is when Peng alleges she was sexually assaulted by Zhang.

    The post was quickly removed from Weibo, as was all of Shuai’s recent activity on the popular Chinese website.

    Since the post, an email, signed by her, claimed she was safe and the allegation had been made up – but the WTA raised doubts over the validity of the statement attributed to her at the time.

    Chinese state-affiliated media outlet CGTN released on Twitter what it said was an email sent by Peng, which said: "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine."

    Ghaoli has not responded to the allegation.

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