The International Olympic Committee on Sunday released a photo of what the organisation said was a chat between Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai and its president, Thomas Bach. The IOC had moved swiftly to declare that Shuai was safe. However, not many including the Women’s Tennis Association are willing to buy the claims made by the IOC.
In a statement, the WTA said that the recent videos ‘don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.’
“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,” the WTA said.
This was after the IOC said that its president held a long video conversation with the three-time Olympian. According to the IOC, Shuai ‘thanked the IOC for its concern about her wellbeing.’ It said, “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.”
Today, IOC President Thomas Bach, the Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho @ELaaksonen3, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei held a video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China. cc/ @Athlete365 https://t.co/8at0ZMrozS
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) November 21, 2021
The IOC said that Shuai wanted to ‘spend her time with friends and family right now.’
35-year-old Shuai had disappeared for almost three weeks after she made sexual assault allegations against a senior Chinese minister. This prompted many including top tennis stars such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka to call on the Chinese government to provide proof that Shuai was safe.
Osaka had tweeted using hashtag #WhereisPengShuai, “I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused. I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way.”
Walliams had written on Twitter, “I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai.”
The Chinese state media had released what it claimed was an email from Shuai saying that she was safe. However, many had doubted the authenticity of the email triggering huge social media backlash.