Peng Shuai gave no sign of life for several weeks. Suddenly she was found. Smiling, supposedly relaxed, spending time in the company of a cat or friends, but at the same time asking for her privacy. The Chinese woman spoke to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, who – somewhat unexpectedly – decided to get involved in the matter. His commitment, however, makes sense when we hear more and more voices about boycotting the winter games in Beijing. This option is to be considered by, inter alia, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson.
If by some miracle you haven’t heard about the Peng Shuai commotion yet, we are here to help. She was the leader of the WTA doubles ranking and one of the best tennis players in Chinese history. In early November, however, she did something unthinkable in this country. She accused one of the most important Chinese politicians of the time, a former deputy prime minister, of rape. Her “testimony”, published on “Weibo”, however, disappeared after about thirty minutes.
Over the next dozen or so days, the tennis player was not active in social media and did not participate in any events. She disappeared. This caused anxiety among the most important tennis authorities, as well as the sport’s stars. The matter quickly went beyond the discipline’s environment. The hashtag #WhereisPengShuai was gaining popularity at an express pace.
The “breakthrough” came only last week. CGTN, a television controlled by the Chinese government, published an email that Shuai was to send to Steve Simon, head of the WTA. It read that many of the things said about her were untrue, and she hadn’t disappeared or was in danger. She was just going to rest at home, everything was going to be fine.
Simon and his organization, however, did not convince. In an official statement, he said the e-mail only increased his concerns about the tennis player’s situation. – I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received, or believes what she allegedly wrote in it The American was saying.
In fact – it was not very reliable. Why would Peng just send an email to the head of the WTA, instead of trying to contact him or the media in a more direct, contemporary way? The video linking with IOC president Thomas Bach on Sunday was much better. And yet – no one seems convinced.
Shuai’s conversation with Bach, which was also attended by Emma Terho, chairman of the IOC Athletics Committee and IOC member Chinese Lingwei Li, lasted thirty minutes. Its record has not been shared. – She explained that she was safe and well and that she lives in her home in Beijing. However, she would like her privacy to be respected now and, therefore, she now prefers to spend time with her friends and family – we read in the IOC’s communiqué.
Terho also added his: – I was relieved that Peng Shuai was safe because that was our main concern. She seemed relaxed. I offered her our support and let us stay in touch when it was convenient for her – she reported.
What’s behind it?
We can speculate that the International Olympic Committee is absolutely out of the way of the conflict between the sports world and the country that will be organizing the winter games in a few months. That’s why Thomas Bach, personally, wanted to calm the mood around the Chinese tennis player. Thanks to this conversation, we can be sure that Shuai is alive. Apparently we did not take into account another scenario, but this is still a basic issue.
Photos and recordings released by the Chinese media also responded to similar doubts. On them, Peng is sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends. Or he plays with the cat in a room full of stuffed animals. Is giving away prizes at a junior tennis tournament. Generally – idyll.
All of this, of course, did not stop the talk of Peng Shuai. Bach’s contact with a Chinese woman was commented on by Nikki Dryden, a human rights lawyer and former Olympian in swimming: – It sounds very political that Bach had this conversation with the president of the Competition Commission and an IOC member from China. We are by no means talking about a safe and comfortable connection. It is the representatives of the tennis world who should talk to her, asking about her safety. This shouldn’t be a set.
Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch also disliked the IOC’s behavior. – Honestly, it’s a shame that the IOC is taking part in this theater of the Chinese government saying that everything around Peng Shuai is normal. Of course she is not, otherwise the Chinese government would not censor her online and let her speak freely in the media – said the quoted by The Guardian.
The pragmatic nature of the IOC is, of course, nothing new. For example: just before the Olympics in Mexico in 1968, there was the “Tlatelolco Massacre” in which the student demonstration was quashed by government forces. Several hundred people died. The Olympic Committee then announced that – despite the riots – the games would be held. Nothing more.
Nor was the organization concerned with the mood in Japanese society, which was largely opposed to the Tokyo Olympics in the first half of 2021. Or that in June, the coronavirus in Japan was a bigger problem than ever before. There are simply more important and more important matters for the IOC. And the most important are the games. And that they take place as planned.
The Peng Shuai case is a reminder and one of the most famous recent examples of how China violates human rights. If Novak Djoković, Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams, i.e. people with millions of ranges, spoke, then – from the IOC’s perspective – it was clear that a reaction was necessary. Otherwise, there was a risk that the entire world of sport would turn away from the country with which the Olympic authorities are working closely.
A video call with a Chinese tennis player is likely to do what it was supposed to do, in a way. We will not hear about where Peng Shuai is, because it is known in China. But what about all the rest of the doubts, first of all – what about the Chinese woman’s accusations towards a politician? It probably won’t be easy to get more answers.
Did the IOC save the Games?
Of course – we are not talking about any exceptional situation, just a very media one. At the time when China was granted the right to host the Winter Games in 2015, it was no secret that this country repeatedly violates human rights. That to fall under power in him is to take on one’s own life. That ubiquitous censorship takes place there. Thomas Bach and company did not pay attention to it, however, and the communist government was happy to “win” such a prestigious event. Which was supposed to help him build a comfortable image. After all, this China can’t be so bad, with athletes from all over the world coming to it, right?
The problem is that these events may thwart China’s plans. Recently, voices about boycotting the Games have increased. – This is something we are considering Joe Biden, the President of the United States, replied to journalists when asked about the issue. According to The Times, a discussion about a diplomatic boycott of the Games is also taking place in the British government. There is talk of an option whereby British representatives will not come to China in February, but the British will be represented by its ambassador. According to the newspaper, five politicians wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to ban any representation from the upcoming Olympics.
– I am here to speak out loud about what is happening in Tibet. China has introduced a brutal law there that excludes any freedom for the people there – said the basketball player in October. Soon after, Kanter went out to play in shoes with the inscription “Free Tibet”. This meant that in China you can no longer watch any (!) Matches of the Boston Celtics, i.e. the team in which the Turkish player is playing. Kanter also did not remain silent about the former doubles leader.
Therefore, we are talking about another loud voice that explains that sports circles should move away from China. Meanwhile, its foreign ministry has been attacking those who dare to criticize the Chinese authorities. – It’s not a diplomatic thing. I believe everyone has seen her take part in some public events recently and also made a video interview with Thomas Bach. I hope some people will stop talking maliciously, let alone politicizing recent events – said the head of the ministry, Zhao Lijian, about the Peng Shuai case.
You get the impression that all the confusion came a bit too late. The Winter Games in Beijing will take place in less than four months. The International Olympic Committee does not signal that the situation in China worries him, on the contrary – some accuse him of cooperation or assistance in cooling down the mood around the “missing” tennis player. We will probably hear about this later, because it is doubtful that the WTA will let it go completely. Although the scenario in which the above-mentioned video call will be the last signal of life from Shuai, will not surprise us at all. Because it is not easy to win with a world power.