Peng Shuai said she is safe in video call, says International Olympic Committee of Chinese tennis star
The two were accompanied on the video call by a Chinese sports official, Li Lingwei, as well as the Chair of the Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho. The IOC did not provide CNN access to the video.
The video comes after Peng, one of China’s most recognizable sports stars, publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home, according to screenshots of a since-deleted social media post dated November 2.
She has not been directly seen in public since the accusation, prompting several fellow tennis players express worry on social media, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
The Women’s Tennis Association and the United Nations have called for an investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.
Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, has also called for more robust proof of Peng’s liberty, requesting on Friday that she either be allowed to leave the country or speak live via teleconference with him and no one else present.
His demand came after several people connected to Chinese state media and sport system tweeted photos and videos they say show Peng out to dinner on Saturday. The clips, which appear to deliberately emphasize specific dates, could not be independently verified by CNN.
Though Simon expressed relief at seeing Peng in these clips, he said his concerns remained.
“It remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,” Simon said.
According to the IOC statement about the 30-minute call, Peng thanked the committee for its concern about her well-being and insisted that she is “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now.”
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” said Terho. “She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”
Also according to the IOC, Peng accepted an invitation to have dinner with Bach and Terho as well as Li — a former director and party secretary of Tennis Administration Center of General Administration of Sport of China — in January, ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Previous reporting contributed by CNN’s Nectar Gan and Mohammed Tawfeeq.