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IOC responds after Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai emerges at Olympics, gives controlled interview

Peng Shuai
Posted at 6:38 AM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 20:41:01-05

BEIJING — Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has given a controlled interview to French newspaper about the social media posting that sparked a storm of international concern over her well-being.

L'Equipe said it spoke to the tennis player on Sunday in a Beijing hotel in an hour-long interview organized through China's Olympic committee.

Peng told the newspaper she never accused a Chinese official of sexual assault. Peng also said that her post in November had been taken out of context and led to "an enormous misunderstanding."

In that post, Peng wrote that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals.

After sharing her post on social media, Peng dropped out of public view for several weeks, prompting concern and criticism from the world's top tennis stars, including Serena Williams.

After Peng reappeared in public, she spoke with the IOC, which reiterated China's view that Peng was safe. However, the interview offered few details, no follow-ups on her allegations, and invited more questions for the IOC, Peng, and China.

The Women's Tennis Association later announced it would not hold tournaments in China next year over its concerns for Peng's safety and freedom.

The drama surrounding Peng follows a familiar script: Someone who has run afoul of China's Communist government disappears from view.

What happens next depends on the case. But it is not uncommon for the person in question to disavow the statements or actions that first upset officials. Other times, the person simply keeps a lower profile. Sometimes, their arrest is eventually announced.

Peng's interview Monday comes as Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics amid diplomatic boycotts over the country's alleged human rights abuses of Muslim people in Western China.