Chinese tennis star tells Olympic officials she is ‘fine and well’

The missing Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, told Olympic officials in a video call from Beijing that she is fine and in good health, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said today.

This news came after Peng reappeared at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizing company.

The 30-minute call came amid growing global concern about Peng after she accused a former senior Communist Party official of sexual assault.

China’s ruling Communist Party has tried to allay fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng.

Sunday’s call – with IOC President Thomas Bach, Athletes Commission chairperson Emma Terhu and IOC member Li Lingui, former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Federation – appears to be Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on February 2. November.

In a statement, the Swiss-based Olympic body said Ping «thanked the IOC for its concern about her safety.»

“She made it clear that she is fine and healthy, and lives in her home in Beijing, but would like her privacy to be respected at this time. This is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family at the moment.

Peng, who played for China at three Olympics from 2008 to 2016, made the sexual assault allegation on Chinese social media three weeks ago against a former member of the ruling Communist Party’s Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli.

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This post was removed within minutes and the former highest rated doubles player was lost from public view. She did not publicly respond to calls for information to appear safe.

Peng adds to the growing number of Chinese businessmen, activists and ordinary people who have disappeared in recent years after criticizing party figures, in anti-corruption or pro-democracy and labor rights campaigns.

Some reappeared weeks or months later without explanation, indicating that they were warned not to disclose their detention or the reason for it.

Pictures of Peng posted by the China Open on Sunday on social media service Weibo did not mention her disappearance or accusation.

The former Wimbledon champion is shown standing courtside, waving and signing commemorative oversized tennis balls for children.

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Ping’s disappearance and official silence in response to pleas for information led to calls for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, a prestigious event for the Communist Party.

The women’s professional tour has threatened to withdraw events from China unless the safety of the former number one-seeded doubles player is guaranteed.

The IOC previously remained silent about the status of Peng, who has competed in three Olympics, helping to contribute to the organization’s multi-million pound revenue from broadcasting and sponsorship.

The stated policy of the Olympic Committee is «quiet diplomacy».

On Saturday, the IOC said it would «continue our open dialogue at all levels with the Olympic movement in China».

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Tennis stars and the Women’s Tennis Association have been unusually vocal in demanding information on Peng. Companies and other sports groups are reluctant to stand up to Beijing for fear of losing access to the Chinese market or other retaliatory measures.

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