BEIJING (AP) – Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai told the International Olympic Committee in a video call that she is safe and well, the committee reported Sunday after Peng reappeared in public at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the tournament organizers.
The 30-minute call came amid great global concern over the fate of Peng, who accused a senior leader of the country of sexual abuse.
The Chinese Communist Party has been trying to assuage fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng.
Sunday’s call – with IOC President Thomas Bach, Athletic Commission Head Emma Terho and IOC Member Li Lingwei, former Vice President of the China Tennis Association – is clearly Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials from abroad since he disappeared from public view on November 2.
Peng “thanked the IOC for the concern about his well-being,” the Swiss-based IOC said in a statement.
“She explained that she is safe and well at her home in Beijing, but that she wanted everyone to respect her privacy at this time. That is why she wants to spend her time with her family and friends right now, ”the statement added.
Peng, who represented China in three Olympics between 2008 and 2016, three weeks ago accused, through social networks, a former member of the Communist Party leadership, Zhang Gaoli, of having sexually assaulted her.
That message was deleted in a few minutes and the tennis player disappeared from public view. He did not respond to public calls for information to confirm that he is safe.
Peng joins a growing number of Chinese businessmen, activists and citizens who have disappeared in recent years after criticizing party figures. The whereabouts of some have been unknown since police operations were carried out, either to combat alleged acts of corruption or to quell pro-democracy or labor rights campaigns. Some reappear weeks or months later, without an explanation. This suggests that they are advised not to reveal that they were detained or why.
Photos of Peng posted on Weibo Sunday by the China Open make no mention of Peng’s disappearance or his indictment. In the photographs, he is seen standing by the side of a court, waving and signing huge tennis balls for the children.
Peng’s disappearance and the government’s silence on requests for information prompted calls to boycott the Winter Olympics, to be held in February.
The professional women’s tennis tour threatened to withdraw tournaments from China unless the safety of Peng, who rose to the top of the world ranking in doubles, is ensured.