Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry declined to comment whether China would launch an investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the former Vice Premier. He repeated his previous comments to reporters, stating that Peng’s “situation was not a diplomatic problem.”
His comments are similar to those made Tuesday by a prominent Chinese state-run newspaper editor. Hu Xijin (editor of the nationalist tabloid The Global Times) wrote that some Western forces were coercing Peng Shuai as well as an institution into helping demonize China’s systems.
According to screenshots from a now-deleted social media posting, Peng, a two time Grand Slam doubles champion and one China’s most prominent tennis players, accused Zhang publicly of forcing her to have sex at Zhang’s home.
Steve Simon, the chief WTA official threatened to withdraw from China unless Peng was found and her allegations investigated.
CNN did not have access to the video by the IOC, but Peng said that she was safe and well in Beijing. She would appreciate her privacy.
According to reports, the call lasted for 30 minutes and was Peng’s first direct contact with Chinese officials since making the allegations.
Amnesty International stated that the IOC was “entering danger waters” by the video call.
Alkan Akad, Amnesty’s China researcher, stated that they should be careful not to take part in any whitewashing of a possible violation or human rights.
After the call, WTA renewed its demand for an investigation.
CNN spokesperson said that Peng Shuai was welcome to be seen in the recent videos. However, they do not address or alleviate the WTA’s concerns about her well-being or ability to communicate freely without censorship and coercion.
“This video doesn’t change our call for an investigation without censorship into her allegation about sexual assault. It is the same issue that raised our initial concern.”
Chinese authorities have not yet acknowledged Peng’s claims against Zhang. There is also no indication that an investigation is under way. It is not clear if Peng reported her claims to the police.
Zhang has been quiet and has disappeared from the public eye since his retirement in 2018. There is currently no information about his whereabouts.
Senior party leaders in China like Zhang are often above reproach even after they have retired. Zhang, who was also vice-premier, served on the Polituro Standing Committee (the country’s supreme leadership organization) which included seven Communist Party members.
CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed reporting.