By Homero De la Fuente, CNN
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach made a video call to an Olympian three times Peng Shuai, the governing body of the Olympic Games announced on Sunday, amid a wave of global concern about Peng’s well-being and whereabouts.
The two were accompanied on video call by a Chinese sports official, Li Lingwei, as well as the chairwoman of the Athletes Commission, Emma Terho. The IOC did not grant CNN access to the video.
The video comes after Peng, one of China’s most famous sports stars, publicly accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of forcing him to have sex at his home, according to footage of a deleted post on social media on November 2nd.
She has not been seen directly in public since the indictment, prompting some fellow tennis players to express concern on social media, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
The Women’s Tennis Association and the United Nations have called for an investigation into its allegations of sexual assault.
According to the IOC statement, Peng thanked the committee for his concern for her well-being and insisted that she is “safe and well, living in her home in Beijing, but would like her privacy to be respected at this time. That’s why she prefers to spend time with friends and family now. “
The phone call, which reportedly lasted 30 minutes, appears to be Peng’s first known direct contact with officials outside China since he made the allegations.
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well, which was our main concern,” Terho said. “She seemed to be calm. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any convenient time, which she definitely appreciated. “
Also according to the IOC, Peng accepted an invitation to have dinner with Bach and Terho as well as Li – a former director and secretary of the Communist Party of the Tennis Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sports of China – in January, ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics .
After the IOC statement saying Bach had spoken to Peng, a WTA spokesman said it was not enough to “mitigate or address the WTA concern”.
“It was nice to see Peng Shuai in the latest videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA concern for its well-being and its ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a spokesman told CNN in a statement.
“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent, uncensored investigation into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that caused our initial concern.”
Steve Simon, head of the WTA, has also called for stronger evidence of Peng’s freedom. In a letter to China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, Simon demanded that she either be allowed to leave the country or speak directly via teleconference with him and no one else present.
His request came after several people linked to Chinese state media and the sports system posted on Twitter photos and videos they say show Peng out for dinner Saturday and at a teen tennis event in Beijing on Sunday.
Throughout the videos Peng says very little, but is seen smiling. CNN could not independently verify the videos or confirm when they were filmed.
Although Simon expressed relief when he saw Peng in these clips, he said his concerns remained.
“It remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action on her own, without coercion or outside interference,” Simon said.
Peng’s allegations of explosive sexual assault, made in a post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, were deleted within 30 minutes of publication, and any mention of the online accusation was quickly deleted.
Until the Chinese state media published the videos over the weekend, Peng had not been seen in public for about three weeks, sparking global protests.
Beijing faced growing international pressure to show evidence of its well-being, including from the United Nations, the US government and the world’s biggest tennis stars.
Simon, the WTA chief, said he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in business in China if Peng is not fully accounted for and her claims are not properly investigated.
Chinese authorities have denied Peng’s allegations against Zhang and there is no indication that an investigation is under way. It remains unclear whether Peng reported her allegations to police.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated that Peng’s accusation is not a diplomatic matter and declined to comment further. CNN has contacted the Information Bureau of the State Council of China, which deals with press inquiries about the central government.
Zhang has maintained a low profile and has faded from public life since his retirement in 2018, and has no public information about his current whereabouts.
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Previous report contributed by CNN Nectar Gan and Mohammed Tawfeeq.
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