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Body representing Olympic athletes calls for 'quiet diplomacy' around missing Chinese tennis star

The statement underlines the softly-softly approach adopted by the IOC ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Nov 20th 2021, 5:50 PM 31,994 28

THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPICS Committee’s Athletes’ Commission (IOC AC) has today pleaded for “quiet diplomacy” around Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

The tennis star has not been seen publicly since she made allegations against a former Chinese vice-premier.

Pen’s main allegation — that she was forced into having sex with the prominent Communist Party official during an on-off relationship spanning several years — was quickly deleted from social media.

While the United States, the United Nations and tennis authorities have challenged the Chinese authorities to provide indisputable evidence of Peng’s whereabouts, the Olympic Athletes’ Commission — which represents athletes within the IOC — struck a softer chord.

“Together with the worldwide athlete community, the IOC AC is very concerned about the situation of three-time Olympian Peng Shuai,” former Finnish ice hockey player Emma Terho, president of the Athletes’ Commission, tweeted on Saturday.

“We support the quiet diplomacy approach that is being taken and hope it will lead to the release of information about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai and confirmation of her safety and well-being.”

Terho, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist, also hoped that “a way can be found for direct engagement between her (Peng) and her athlete colleagues”.

The statement underlines the softly-softly approach adopted Thursday by the IOC which is mindful of offending China just three months before Beijing is due to host the Winter Olympics.

In a short statement today, a spokesperson for the Olympic body acknowledged “the concerns expressed by so many athletes and National Olympic Committees” but insisted it would continue with its “quiet diplomacy”.

“This approach means we will continue our open dialogue on all levels with the Olympic Movement in China,” said the IOC statement.

Quickly scrubbed

The United Nations insisted on a fully transparent investigation into the claims made by Peng against Communist Party grandee Zhang Gaoli.

Peng alleged on the Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this month that Zhang, now in his 70s, had “forced” her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years.

The claims were quickly scrubbed from the Twitter-like platform and Peng has not been seen publicly since.

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“It would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and well-being,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters in Geneva.

“We are calling for an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault.”

Other tennis stars, sports bodies, governments and human rights defenders have added to the growing clamour for information.

The head of the WTA, the top world body for women’s tennis, has said the organisation is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Chinese business in one of its biggest markets to ensure Peng’s wellbeing.

China has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.

Today, Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the Communist Party-owned Global Times, tweeted: “she will show up in public and participate in some activities soon.”

© Agence France-Presse

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