Peng Shuai’s Interview Does Not Alleviate Concerns About Her Sexual Assault Claim: WTA Chief

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s recent interview with French sports newspaper L’Equipe “does not alleviate any of our concerns” regarding her previous sexual assault claim, Chief Executive of the Women Tennis Association (WTA) Steve Simon said on Tuesday.

Peng gave her first interview to a foreign news outlet on Sunday, during which she asserted that her sexual assault claim against China’s ex-deputy leader Zhang Gaoli on social media last November sparked an “enormous misunderstanding.”

“I never said that anyone made me submit to a sexual assault,” the newspaper quoted her saying. “My private life should not be brought up in sports and politics.”

Peng also denied going missing after making the allegation, claiming that it was just “impossible to respond to so many messages.”

The interview was organized by China’s Olympic Committee, with the help of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Throughout the interview, Peng was accompanied by a Chinese Olympic Committee official, and questions were prepared ahead of time.

In response, Simon said that he was not convinced by Peng’s answers and maintained his stance that a formal investigation into her initial allegations must be undertaken.

Simon also requested an opportunity for the WTA to meet privately with Peng to discuss her situation.

“It’s always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games,” he said in a statement.

“However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2. To reiterate our view, Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader.”

Peng disappeared from the public eye for nearly three weeks after she alleged on social media that Zhang coerced her into having sex at his home. Her post was promptly removed from the Chinese social media site Weibo, and her subsequent reappearances were accompanied by Chinese officials.

tennis player Peng Shuai of China
This combination of file photos shows tennis player Peng Shuai of China (L) during her women’s singles first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan. 16, 2017; and Chinese deputy leader Zhang Gaoli (R) during a visit to Russia in Saint Petersburg on June 18, 2015. (Paul Crock and Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP via Getty Images)

Her well-being has since become a matter of concern among the global tennis community and rights group, with the WTA halting all matches in China and Hong Kong indefinitely.

While the IOC announced on Monday that its president, Thomas Bach, had dinner with Peng at the Olympic Club in Beijing over the weekend, it made no mention of Peng’s initial claim or her current situation.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in a statement on Monday accused the IOC of helping the Chinese communist regime to “cover up its gross mistreatment and abuse of Peng Shuai.”

sen-rick-scott
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks to reporters in Washington, on Aug. 6, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

“Instead of following the lead of the Women’s Tennis Association and calling for a complete and transparent investigation into Peng’s claims, securing her safety and stopping future athletic competition in Communist China, the IOC is an active participant in her oppression,” he said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Scott also called on the Senate to pass a bipartisan resolution, which was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in December last year, condemning the IOC’s “disgusting appeasement.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also took to her Twitter account on Tuesday, saying that “the Chinese Communist Party is using Peng Shuai as a puppet, and the International Olympic Committee is going along with it.”

Michael Shoebridge, the director of defense, strategy, and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, criticized the IOC for failing to address Peng’s initial allegation during its in-person meeting with the tennis player.

“This ‘face to face’ stage-managed dinner that doesn’t mention Peng Shuai’s statement about [how] former [Chinese Communist Party] Polituro member Zhang Gaoli sexually abused her is a rolled gold case of the IOC politicizing itself [and] staining its reputation,” Shoebridge wrote in a Twitter post.

From The Epoch Times