Even a monitored interview and a behind-closed-doors meeting with IOC chief Thomas Bach have not allayed doubts about Peng Shuai’s well-being. On the contrary.
The French sports newspaper “L’Équipe” published a long interview with the Chinese tennis player. But the strange circumstances and strange specifications raise as many questions as the conversation in a hotel in Beijing’s Olympic bubble attempted to answer.
The International Olympic Committee left it in its statements with dry phrases. They do not want to assess whether Peng has voluntarily withdrawn her allegations of sexual assault by a Chinese leader. It is still not clear how freely the 36-year-old can really speak and move.
Criticism of the IOC’s “silent diplomacy”.
The former world number one in doubles met with Bach and former athlete spokeswoman Kirsty Coventry on February 5 for dinner. “We talked a lot and exchanged pleasantly,” she said. And that she has already watched curling at the Winter Olympics and would still like to go figure skating. The IOC reported on an exchange of shared Olympic experiences – and that confidentiality had been agreed on further content of the conversation.
The IOC’s much-criticized “silent diplomacy” may well be in the interests of the Olympic host, who has little interest in further debates about Peng Shuai. “This is not a diplomatic question,” said a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry in Beijing when asked about the latest developments.
Peng’s case has been moving the world for several months after she published the allegations on the social network Weibo in November. The post was deleted soon after. The state censorship had also blocked any debate on the Chinese Internet about it. Since then, athletes, politicians and human rights activists have expressed their concern. Peng later denied making the allegations.
Staged interview with “L’Équipe”
However, your statements seemed posed and staged – just like the most recent interview. The renowned French newspaper “L’Équipe” itself pointed out which conditions had to be met by the National Olympic Committee of China (COC): Peng would speak in Chinese, the questions had to be submitted in advance, and the interview was to be published without further comment will.
In addition, during the interview, which was scheduled for half an hour but lasted about an hour, a representative from the COC was in the room to translate the questions and answers. According to “L’Équipe”, this was checked by a translator in Paris. And what was finally published in French and English differed only in nuances from the statements from a seemingly staged video interview with the Chinese newspaper “Lianhe Zaobao” from Singapore at the end of last year.
Peng Shuai denies sexual assault
“I never said anyone sexually harassed me in any way,” Peng told L’Équipe, speaking of a “huge misunderstanding.” She said at the time: “I have never said or written that anyone sexually assaulted me.”
She had never disappeared, “everyone could see me,” said Peng now. When asked why the post disappeared, she replied, “I deleted it.” When asked why she deleted him, she said, “Why? Because I wanted to.” While the women’s organization WTA and its boss Steve Simon recently positioned themselves clearly and tournaments in China and Hong Kong were suspended, the IOC squirmed even before the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
IOC does everything “that she is happy and satisfied”
“We as a sports organization do everything we can to ensure that she is happy and content. It is not our job and it is not your job to assess how her position is to be assessed,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams when asked of a journalist. When asked whether, from the IOC’s point of view, Peng Shuai could call for an investigation into the incidents without fear of negative effects, spokesman Adams referred to a statement by Bach.
He “rightly said that it is not up to us to say whether there is an investigation or not.” The IOC invited Peng Shuai to its headquarters in Lausanne and is still in contact with her. “I can safely say that we are doing everything we can to deal with this situation as is proper and as it should be.”
Some of Peng’s words sounded like official phrases when she said that “sport should not be politicized”, that “emotions, sports and politics are three completely different things” and that her private problems should not be mixed up with sports and politics.