Tue, 26 Sep 2023

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has said it "remains deeply concerned" that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai "is not free from censorship or coercion."

In an email this week, the WTA said that CEO Steve Simon has attempted to reach out to Peng "via various communication channels," including two emails, "to which it was clear her responses were influenced by others."

"The WTA remains concerned about her ability to communicate freely, openly, and directly," the statement added.

In screenshots of a since-deleted social media post dated 2nd November, Peng publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home.

Following her accusation, she disappeared from public view, prompting several fellow tennis players to use the hashtag, #WhereIsPengShuai, to voice their concern.

In a statement on 21st November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympian Peng, with the participation of a Chinese sports official and an IOC official.

During the call, Peng appeared to be "doing fine" and "relaxed," and she "would like to have her privacy respected," the statement added.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the IOC's role in collaborating with Chinese authorities on Peng Shuai's reappearance.

On 23rd November, HRW China Director Sophie Richardson said, "It is a whole different order of magnitude to see Thomas Bach, in a photograph with a woman, Peng Shuai, under intense pressure, we can reasonably assume from other cases, to walk back her claims of sexual assault."

But in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour this week, IOC member Dick Pound said he was "puzzled" by the reaction to the video call between Peng and Bach.

"Basically, lots of people around the world were looking to see what happened to Peng Shuai and nobody was able to establish contact. Only the IOC was able to do so. They found her in good health and in good spirits and they saw no evidence of confinement or anything like that," he added.

Since his retirement in 2018, Zhang has kept a low profile and is rarely seen in public life.

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