Peng Shuai: IOC to meet Chinese tennis player in person next month after quiet diplomacy

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) say they will be allowed to meet Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai in person next month and that “quiet diplomacy” could resolve her case.  

It comes after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced it was suspending competitions in China over concerns of what has happened to the 35-year-old.

Last month, Peng Shuai made an allegation of sexual assault against a prominent political figure in China’s ruling communist party and then seemed to disappear for several weeks.

Her social media post on Chinese site Weibo detailing the allegation was deleted.

Despite several subsequent public sightings, video calls and emails from the player, the WTA say they simply aren’t convinced she is free from coercion and control in China.

The IOC are also coming under increasing pressure to provide clarity over what is happening to her given that the Winter Olympics start in Beijing in February.

In a statement, the IOC said: “Just yesterday (Wednesday), an IOC team held another video call with her.

“We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.

“There are different ways to achieve her wellbeing and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation.

“We are using ‘quiet diplomacy’ which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.”

The WTA have chosen a stronger approach that will see them suspend lucrative tournaments that were scheduled to be played in China in 2022 unless there is a full and transparent investigation into her allegation.

Chief executive Steve Simon told NBC News that the only way their boycott can be resolved is when “a transparent and full investigation is held into the allegations without any censorship”.

“We’re going to stick with that and that’s what we expect the authorities to come back with,” Mr Simon added.

He revealed that Beijing had not yet responded directly to the WTA about the boycott, saying: “No, we have not heard from anybody as of this time.”

He said he did not believe the emails they have received from Peng Shuai were authentic, adding: “My opinion is that they were orchestrated”.

Meanwhile, Beijing has hit back over the boycott.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “We have made clear our position. We are always firmly opposed to acts that politicise sports.”

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