Human rights group Amnesty International said on Monday that the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) had entered ‘dangerous waters’ by releasing a video to provide assurance over Peng Shuai’s well-being.
The tennis world is rallying to make sure that the 35-year-old is safe.
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Peng had not been seen for nearly three weeks since alleging on social media that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.
Peng Shuai, please know that your fellow players stand with you.
Thinking of you and hope you are safe #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/CoMjLoLzLS
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) November 19, 2021
But former doubles Grand Slam champion Peng, rather than reaching out to WTA chief Steve Simon, had had a video call on Sunday with IOC president Thomas Bach and told him she was safe and well.
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A statement from IOC 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.
“That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.”
Neither Amnesty International nor WTA seemed convinced of Peng’s safety despite the IOC statement.
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“The IOC is entering dangerous waters. They should be extremely careful not to participate in any whitewash of possible human rights violations,” said Amnesty’s China researcher Alkan Akad.
“In the past we have seen various similar cases where people had no option but to say what they had been told to,” he said.
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Akad said the video call was barely convincing and did little to alleviate fears over the player’s wellbeing, echoing the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) earlier on Monday.
“The Chinese government has a track record, especially the state run media outlets of fabricating statements or making people give forced and sometimes televised testimonies shortly after people go missing,” said Akad.
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The WTA, in a statement said: “It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”
It went on to add that the video does not change the tennis body’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into her allegation of sexual assault.