Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai told Olympic officials “she is safe and well” amid widespread international concern over her whereabouts.
Peng spoke to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei in a video call from Beijing, the Switzerland-based Olympic body said in a statement on Sunday night.
Peng, 35, a former doubles world number one, disappeared from public view this month after she accused China’s former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
Her interaction with the Olympic officials came after pictures and photos published by event organizers and Chinese media showed her at a youth tennis tournament on Sunday and at a restaurant on Saturday.
In a 30-minute video call, Peng “explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” read the IOC statement.
“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,” it added.
Terho said she was “relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern.”
“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,” the official was quoted as saying.
Bach invited Peng “for a dinner once he arrives in Beijing next January, which she gladly accepted, and the two agreed to include Emma Terho and Li Lingwei,” the statement added.
In a social media post on Nov. 2, Peng alleged that she was coerced into sex by Zhang, who was one of the seven members of the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and retired in 2018.
The post on Chinese social media platform Weibo was quickly deleted and Peng was not seen in public for weeks.
As calls for proof of her well-being grew, Chinese state media published an e-mail purported to have been penned by Peng, which said she was “fine” and “resting at home,” while also claiming that her allegations against Zhang were “not true.”
However, that only fueled concerns for her safety and even the UN demanded evidence of her whereabouts earlier this week.
“We are calling for an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault,” said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office.