Peng Shuai says she is safe in video call with IOC president

Greg Martin/IOC
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Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai said she is safe and well, speaking in a 30-minute video call with IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday, according to the IOC.

The call came 19 days after her allegation of sexual assault against a former high-ranking politician in China.

Peng said that “she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” according to an IOC press release. “That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now.”

IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Emma Terho and Chinese IOC member Li Lingwei, who the IOC said has known the three-time Olympian Peng for many years, were also on the call.

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” Terho said, according to the release. “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 Sunday, videos and photos posted on social media showed Peng at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing, standing beside a court, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children.

The tournament organizer and the English-language Global Times, a newspaper published by China’s ruling party, shared the photos and videos.

A WTA spokesperson, responding to Sunday’s videos and IOC release, repeated WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon‘s call for an investigation into her allegation of sexual assault.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “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.”

Last week, the U.N. called for an investigation “with full transparency” after a lengthy social media post on Peng’s verified account on Nov. 2 said that she was forced to have sex three years ago with Zhang Gaoli in his home despite repeated refusals.

Zang, 75, is a former vice premier who was a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee.

The post was quickly deleted from Peng’s account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots were shared on the internet.

Tennis stars including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka expressed concern for Peng’s well-being and whereabouts last week, posting social media messages with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“We join in the calls for [Chinese] authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Peng, 35, competed at the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She was world No. 1 in doubles, winning titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She last played on the WTA Tour in February 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.