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WTA says Peng Shuai’s call with Olympic officials does not alleviate concerns about her well-being

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s video call to the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not address or alleviate the concerns of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) for their welfare, the WTA said on Monday.

The whereabouts of Peng, a former No. 1 double world champion, became internationally worrying nearly three weeks ago after she alleged that she was sexually abused by former Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli.

She appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, photos and videos published by Chinese state media journalists and the tournament organizers. But they have done little to allay concerns.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in the last few videos, but they do not allay or address the WTA’s concerns about their wellbeing and their ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email .

When asked about the call to the IOC, the spokeswoman said: “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegations of sexual assault, which is the issue that sparked our initial concern.”

The IOC said in a statement that Peng had a 30-minute phone call to his President Thomas Bach on Sunday in which she said she was safe and well in Beijing and wanted to respect her privacy for the time being.

Concerns about Peng came after global human rights groups and others called for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over China’s human rights record. The WTA has also threatened to withdraw tournaments from China.

On November 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that Zhang forced her to have sex and that they later had a consensual relationship. The post was quickly deleted and the topic was banned from discussion on China’s heavily censored internet.

Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government commented on Peng’s allegations. The Chinese State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comments sent on Monday.

France’s foreign minister on Sunday urged the Chinese authorities to allow Peng to speak publicly.

“I only expect one thing: her to speak,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI-TV, adding that there could be undetermined diplomatic consequences if China does not clear up the situation. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the IOC’s testimony.

The United States and Britain have asked China to provide evidence of Peng’s whereabouts.

Current and past tennis players including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King joined the calls to confirm their safety by using the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai?

Novak Djokovic, world number 1 in men’s singles, said it would be strange to hold tournaments in China if the “dire” situation was not resolved.


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