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IOC Enters “Dangerous Waters” with the Issue of Tennis Star Peng Shuai

INTERNATIONAL: China's foreign ministry has called on “certain people” on Tuesday to stop the "malicious hyping" and "politicization" of the issue of tennis star Peng Shuai, as foreign governments and organisations continue to raise questions around her wellbeing.

The more people talk about it, the more China can’t make the issue disappear. When Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai went public with a bombshell sexual assault accusation against a retired top official, China’s response was to censor all discussion of the allegation internally—and dismiss growing international concern over Peng’s whereabouts and safety.

The whereabouts of Peng, a former doubles world number one, became a matter of international concern for nearly three weeks after she has posted a message on social media accusing China's former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

She has reemerged over the weekend in a series of appearances—in videos, photos and then in a video conversation with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. Peng’s allegation is believed to be the first of its kind directed at a high-ranking Chinese government official. The controversy is putting a spotlight on China’s #MeToo movement and the treatment of sports stars who speak up, just months before the country opens the 2022 Winter Olympics.The appearances seem to answer immediate concerns about her well-being, but have done nothing to address the questions about her allegations—or what consequences she might face for airing them.

They have not stopped the Women’s Tennis Association, which catapulted Peng’s story into the international spotlight, from demanding an explanation from China. WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon has announced that they are willing to pull the business and deal with all the complications that come with it. He has previously touted a $1 billion investment by China into women’s tennis.

Amnesty International's China researcher Alkan Akad has disclosed that the video call did little to ease fears over Peng's wellbeing and that the IOC was entering "dangerous waters.”

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