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Concerns over disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai “mischievously” heightened

China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday finally commented on the case of tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared after making bomb rape allegations against a senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official.

After days of refusing to answer questions about Peng, the Foreign Ministry accused people around the world of “maliciously noisy” and “politicizing” Peng’s story.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday still insisted that Peng’s case was “not a diplomatic affair,” but this time he added some comments on photos and videos. released by the Chinese government to prove that Peng is alive and well.

“I believe you have all seen that she recently attended public events and had a video call with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] President Thomas Bach ”, Zhao noted.

“I think some people should stop doing deliberate and malicious advertising, let alone politicizing this issue,” he added.

Peng, a big sports celebrity in China, faded away shortly after writing an article on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on November 2 in which she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex ten years ago. The older Zhang has become the top CCP official to face such allegations in China’s #MeToo era.

Chinese censors immediately took action, suppressing Peng’s post on Weibo and suppressing searches for her information.

Tennis fans and other players have grown more and more concerning for his well-being, including court legends and contemporary star players. Peng’s fate also caught the attention of a basketball star Enes Kanter, a vocal critic of human rights violations in China. On Sunday, Kanter added his voice to the chorus of IOC demands to cancel the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing “for the sake of Peng Shuai.”

The Women’s Tennis Association and its CEO, Steve Simon, have been remarkably firm in demanding strong evidence that Peng is safe and free. Simon was quick to question an email purportedly sent by Peng late last week, when pressure increased against Beijing, and he threatened to pull the WTA out of China.

The IOC has been less assertive towards the Chinese government. In a statement released on Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach and a few other Olympic officials said they spoke with Peng during a 30-minute video call. This is the call referred to by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday.

The IOC said that Peng “explained that she is safe and well, that she lives at her home in Beijing, but would like her privacy to be respected at this time.”

Chinese state media also posted images of Peng relaxing at his home, distributing them in the West through social media platforms like Twitter that Chinese citizens are banned from using. A picture drew particular attention because a picture of Winnie the Pooh is clearly visible in the background.

Winnie the Pooh is banned in China because dissidents use the cartoon bear to mock the portly Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. Pro-Chinese social media users have suggested that the Chinese state inserted this photo as a way to “troll” its Western critics.

Despite the sarcastic layoffs from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, human rights groups such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) remain skeptical of the evidence provided by China to ensure Peng’s safety.

HRW Australia Director Elaine Pearson noted On Tuesday, he was “ashamed to see the IOC participate in this Chinese government’s charade that all is well”.

“Peng Shuai’s allegations must be fully investigated and she must be free to say and do whatever she wants,” noted Carolyn Nash, AI Advocacy Director for Asia.

The WTA is still not officially convinced.

“It was nice to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA’s concerns about his well-being and his ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a spokesperson said afterwards. the IOC teleconference with Peng.

“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent, uncensored investigation into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that raised our initial concern.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was simply no substitute for allowing Peng to address the global public, without threats or coercion.

“I’m just waiting for one thing: for her to speak,” said Le Drian.

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