Beijing: Out of public view for almost three weeks, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has appeared in a video call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
The IOC and the Chinese government would like this to be the end of the Peng saga, which has run since Nov. 2 when she accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. That may be wishful thinking on their part.
The interview offered few details, no follow-ups on her allegations, and invited more questions for the IOC, Peng, and China.
It seems unlikely to satisfy Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, who has been blunt in criticizing China and has threatened to pull all top-tier WTA events from the country.
Even after the IOC video was published Sunday, the WTA repeated what Simon has been saying for more than a week, calling for a full, fair, and transparent investigation “without censorship.”
According to the IOC, Peng held a 30-minute call with Bach, and he recounted in a statement that she is “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.”
The IOC said Bach invited Peng, a former No. 1-ranked doubles player and a three-time Olympian, to dinner when he is town to oversee the troubled Beijing Winter Olympics that open on Feb. 4.
Not only is the IOC now embroiled in this scandal, it has also been widely criticized for going ahead with the Olympics despite alleged crimes against humanity taking place against Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans, and other minorities.
Yaqiu Wang, a China-born spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, tweeted that the IOC is now “actively playing a role in the Chinese government’s enforced disappearance, coercion and propaganda machinery.”
The concerns for Peng from the WTA and so many of its top and retired players - Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, and Martina Navratilova - and global attention on the WhereIsPengShuai social media movement have put pressure on China, even if the news of her allegations is blacked out at home.
CNN reported that its signal in China had been blocked around reporting on Peng.
Still missing is Zhang. He left public life about three years ago after being one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee - the apex of political power in China.
A three-time Olympian, Peng accused Zhang of sexual assault on social media in China, which was immediately taken down on its heavily censored internet. She also described having a consensual relationship with the Chinese official.