The IOC’s interview with Peng Shuai asks more questions

The IOC’s interview with Peng Shuai asks more questions

Out of sight for nearly three weeks, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai appeared in a video call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

The IOC and the Chinese government would like this to be the end of the Peng saga, which began on November 2, when former Vice Premier Zhang Qaoli was accused of sexual assault.

It might be security on their part.

The interview provided few details, provided no follow-up to her claims, and called more questions to the IOC, Peng and China.

It seems unlikely to satisfy Steve Simon, the WTA’s chairman and chief executive, who has been outspoken in criticizing China and has threatened to pull all Class A WTA events from the country.

Even after the IOC video was released on Sunday, the WTA repeated what Simon had said for more than a week, calling for a full, fair and transparent investigation “without censorship”.

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According to the IOC, Ping had a 30-minute call with Bach, and said in a statement that she is “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like her privacy to be respected at this time.”

The IOC said Bach had invited Ping, the former No. 1 doubles player and three-time Olympian, to dinner when he was in town to oversee the turbulent Beijing Winter Olympics, which open on February 4.

Not only was the IOC now embroiled in this scandal, it was also widely criticized for moving forward with the Olympics despite alleged crimes against humanity committed against Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans and other minorities.

Yaqiu Wang, a Chinese-born spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, tweeted that the IOC was “now playing an active role in the Chinese government’s machinery for enforced disappearance, coercion and propaganda.”

Peng’s concerns about the WTA and its many senior and retired players — Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova — and global interest in the WhereIsPengShuai social media movement have pressured China, even if news of her allegations is dark at home.

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CNN reported that its signals about reporting on Peng have been blocked in China.

A search of her name on Monday on Weibo, one of China’s leading social media platforms, yielded only a handful of posts about her, and they don’t mention the sexual assault allegation or questions about her whereabouts.

The China Open posted a photo with her at the youth tournament on Sunday, but did not mention it in the caption.

Zhang is still missing. He left public life about three years ago after being one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee – the pinnacle of political power in China.

Efforts to silence Peng reflect the ruling Communist Party’s determination to suppress criticism of its leaders. Athletes are particularly politically sensitive because they are known and loved for their achievements and are used to promote the success of the party.

Ping, a three-time Olympian, accused Zhang of sexual assault on social media in China, which was promptly removed on the heavily censored internet. It also described the existence of a consensual relationship with the Chinese official.

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She wrote in part: “I know that for you, Vice Minister Zhang Gaoli, a person of high standing and influence, you said that you are not afraid. With your intelligence, you will definitely deny it or you can use it against me, you can reject it without any care. Even if I destroy myself, like throwing An egg on a rock, or a butterfly flying in a flame, I will still speak the truth about us.”

The IOC could argue that “quiet diplomacy” worked, and gave China a way to save face. On the other hand, the IOC makes it an active partner in getting Beijing’s message across, without subjecting Peng to an open interview about her allegations.

Although the IOC portrays itself as a non-governmental organization, a sports company – such as the WTA or the National Basketball Association – generates 91% of its income from sponsors and the sale of broadcasting rights.

The WTA is the first sports body to defiantly stand up to China’s financial influence, in sharp contrast to the International Olympic Committee, which says it is unable to meddle in China’s domestic politics.

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“The data makes the IOC complicit in Chinese power’s malicious propaganda and disregard for basic human rights and justice,” Global Athlete, an athlete lobby group, said in a statement.

“The IOC has shown complete disregard for allegations of sexual violence and sexual assault against athletes. By taking a careless approach to Peng Shuai’s disappearance and refusing to mention her serious allegations of sexual assault, IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Athletes Commission appear,” the statement read. international indifference to sexual violence and the luxury of mathematics.”

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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More from the AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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