International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had a video interview with Shuai Peng on Sunday. The Chinese tennis player has shown no sign of life since she accused her country’s former deputy prime minister of rape in early November.
As stated in the announcement on the IOC website, Bach’s conversation with Peng lasted 30 minutes, and the player initially thanked for caring for her fate.
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 prefers to spend time with friends and family these days. There will be, however, still involvement in matters relating to tennis – noted in the statement.
Bach was accompanied in this video-interview by the chairman of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC member Lingwei Li, who knows Peng from her time in the Chinese tennis federation.
I was relieved to see that Shuai Peng was doing well, which was our main concern. She seemed relaxed. I offered her our support and suggested that we stay in touch when it was convenient for her – reported Terho, quoted in the press release.
As added, Bach, in turn, invited the former leader of the world doubles ranking for dinner when he will appear in Beijing in January for next year’s Olympics.
In early November, Peng published an entry on Chinese social media in which accused former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Since then, she has shown no sign of life. The post has been deleted and any discussion of it has been cut short. Since then, representatives of the tennis community began to express more and more anxiety about her fate.
On Thursday, an investigation into this matter was called, among others, by American Serena Williams and Japanese Naomi Osaka. Deep concern was also expressed, inter alia, by US President Joe Biden. On Friday, the head of the WTA organization, Steve Simon, threatened that if he was not sure that the 35-year-old tennis player was in no danger, all tournaments in China would be canceled. The United Nations also became interested in the matter.
Last week, Chinese state media released an e-mail that Peng allegedly was to send to the head of the WTA, in which she denied, inter alia, the truthfulness of these accusations. Simon said then that he did not believe in the authenticity of this news, and his fears for the player’s fate grew even more. In the following days, journalists from this Asian country published photos of Peng from the toy room (which was to be passed on by a tennis player’s friend) and a video of her in one of the Beijing restaurants. In the video, the athlete was accompanied by a coach and several other people who were talking, and she was silent. It is unclear when exactly the materials were made and whether Peng was voluntarily involved in this. During the weekend, photos and a video with the participation of an experienced tennis player from the junior tournament in Beijing were also published.
This is not the first time that a popular person who has fallen into the hands of the authorities “disappears” in China. Three years ago, Fan Bingbing, a popular actress nicknamed “Chinese Jennifer Lawrence”, also starring in Hollywood blockbusters such as “X-Men” and “Iron Men,” went missing without a trace.
The actress “reappeared” after a few months. At that time, information was published that she avoided paying taxes. She officially apologized for this and praised the ruling Communist Party of China.