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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

In Shocking Olympic Interview, Peng Shuai Makes an Appearance

Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star, conveyed this message in a tightly controlled interview in Beijing on Monday, in which she addressed sexual assault charges she made against a former high-ranking member of China’s governing Communist Party. Her replies, given in front of a Chinese Olympic official, left many concerns unanswered regarding her health and what had transpired.

The interview with French sports publication L’Equipe, as well as the announcement that IOC President Thomas Bach will meet Peng for dinner this weekend, looked to be intended at assuaging foreign worries over the three-time Olympian and former No. 1 tennis doubles player. These fears have threatened to cast a pall over the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are now underway.

Peng told L’Equipe that the worries stemmed from “a massive misunderstanding.” However, the nature of the interview, with questions given in advance and a Chinese Olympic committee member sitting in on the discussion, translating Peng’s replies from Chinese, did not appear to allow for any extended follow-ups.

The hour-long interview, which took place Sunday in a Beijing hotel and was organized by China’s Olympic committee with the support of the IOC, focused heavily on Peng’s playing history.

The publication published her views in question-and-answer format, which it said was another pre-condition for an interview. During the interview, Peng was seen wearing a red tracksuit top with the word “China” written in Chinese characters on the front.

Peng was questioned by L’Equipe about the sexual assault charges that ignited the uproar in November. Her verified account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media network, was swiftly wiped of the charges. She then vanished from public view for a while, prompting “where is Peng Shuai?” concerns on the internet and from followers outside of China.

Despite her repeated refusals, Peng said that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex. Her message also stated that they had intercourse seven years ago and that she afterwards developed love feelings for him.

Since the charge, the interview with L’Equipe was her first sit-down interview with non-Chinese media. She retracted her previous statement.

“Do you mean sexual assault?” “I never stated anyone forced me to submit to a sexual assault,” she told the publication.

“This post caused a great deal of confusion in the outside world,” she added. “I hope the message of this post is no longer twisted.”

“I removed it,” Peng told L’Equipe when asked why the message was vanished from her account.

“Why? She went on to say, “Because I wanted to.”

The obvious follow-up question of why she posted in the first place was not addressed.

On Monday, the IOC sought to diffuse the tension. Bach dined with Peng on Saturday, a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping officially inaugurated the Winter Olympics, according to the report. Peng also accompanied IOC member Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe to the China-Norway Olympic curling competition, according to the IOC.

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams refused to clarify whether the IOC feels Peng is speaking freely or under pressure at his daily Olympic news conference.

“We are a sporting organization, and our role is to maintain in touch with her and, as we’ve indicated in the past, to carry out personal and quiet diplomacy,” he added. “I don’t believe it’s for us to judge in one way, and I don’t think it’s for you to judge in another.”

He stated that the IOC cannot decide whether or not her first complaints should be investigated.

He stated, “I believe we can declare that we are doing everything we can to ensure that this situation is as it should be.”

Peng did not respond directly to a question in the L’Equipe interview about whether she has been in difficulty with Chinese authorities since the post. Instead, she gave a pat-sounding response that reflected the Chinese government’s views on sport and politics.

“I was to explain first and foremost that emotions, sport, and politics are three distinct things,” she said, according to the publication. “Sport and politics should not be entangled with my romantic troubles or my private life.”

“It’s been how it should be: nothing extraordinary,” she said when asked about her life since the November posting.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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