Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has had a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and told him she was safe and well, the IOC said, after Western governments expressed mounting concern for her wellbeing.
Peng had disappeared from public view since she made sexual assault allegations against the former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, on November 2. Videos and photographs of her emerged on Saturday but the women’s tennis tour, the WTA, still had concerns for her welfare.
Emma Terho of Finland, from the IOC athletes’ commission, and Chinese IOC member Li Lingwei were also on the 30-minute call.
“I 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,” said Terho in a statement.
Peng had disappeared after she said on Chinese social media that Zhang had coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
Zhang was a member of the party’s ruling Standing Committee until 2018.
France’s foreign minister had called on Chinese authorities to provide more reassurance, echoing a statement by the Women’s Tennis Association that the images were “insufficient” proof.
Current and former tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, had joined the calls seeking to confirm she was safe, using the social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021
The concern over Peng came as global rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February over China’s human rights record.
The women’s professional tour threatened to pull events out of China unless the safety of the former top-ranked doubles player was assured.
Discussion of Peng’s accusation has been deleted from websites in China.
A government spokesman on Friday denied knowing about the outcry. The ruling party’s internet filters also block most people in China from seeing other social media abroad and most global news outlets.