Washington- The US State Department said Monday it was closely monitoring developments regarding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts were called into question after she accused one of China’s former deputy prime ministers of sexual impropriety.
“We share the concerns that have been expressed around the world because of course we all want her to be safe,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news conference, adding: “Rest assured that we will keep her and her safe. monitor the situation closely.”
The United States supports individuals’ ability to report sexual assault and believes that any allegation anywhere in the world should be investigated, Price said.
The International Olympic Committee said on Sunday that Peng told IOC officials in a video call that same day that she is “safe and healthy” and lives at her home in Beijing. But concerns remain about her ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.
Price accused Beijing of taking “essentially a zero-tolerance approach to criticism” and silencing or trying to silence those who try to speak out.
Earlier this month, Peng claimed to have had an affair with former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli in a social media post under her real name, with the news going viral on the internet. The post on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, was quickly deleted.
Peng competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. She won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon and the French Open, two of the four major global tennis tournaments.
Price’s comments came as US President Joe Biden acknowledged on Thursday that he is considering a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Olympics scheduled for February, suggesting that no US government representatives will attend the global sporting event.
The boycott, which would not affect the participation of American athletes, is seen as a response to China’s alleged human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang, which Washington has labeled “genocide.”
Price said Monday that “there are a number of factors” to consider when it comes to the United States’ presence at the games, noting that these include “deep concerns about the human rights violations in Xinjiang”. But he gave no further updates about the possible boycott.
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