A handout photo posted on the International Olympic Committee website on November 21, 2021 shows IOC president Thomas Bach holding a video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai
The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday that it has spoken with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai again and plans to meet her in Beijing during next month’s Winter Games.
Peng, a former world number one in doubles, has been the subject of worldwide concern since alleging in November that she had been “forced” into sex by former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli during an on-off relationship.
Zhang has not commented on the allegations while Peng has since made brief appearances that have been widely pushed by Chinese state media reporters as proof of her freedom and well-being.
An IOC spokesperson said in a statement to AFP that the Olympic body had “kept in touch with (Peng) and had a number of conversations with her” since an initial call in November, with the most recent communication coming “just the past week”.
She reiterated that she was “looking forward” to meeting IOC president Thomas Bach and chair of the IOC athletes’ commission Emma Terho during the Games, the statement said.
That led to accusations that Bach was acting to protect the Olympic hosts.
International fears that Peng may not be free have persisted despite her public reappearances, with some fans at the Australian Open recently donning T-shirts bearing the slogan “Where is Peng Shuai?”
On Tuesday, tournament chief Craig Tiley said fans could wear the T-shirts as long as they did so peacefully.
China has not commented directly on Peng’s initial social media post, but has said it opposes the “politicisation of sports”.