Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is “safe and well,” according to IOC officials who took part in a 30-minute video call with Peng on Sunday.
IOC president Thomas Bach, athletes commission chair Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei were present for the call. The communication appears to be Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside of China since Nov. 2, after she made a sexual assault allegation on social media against a former Chinese Minister, Zhang Gaoli.
In a statement, the Olympic governing body said that Peng “thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being.”
“She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now,” read the statement.
The IOC said Bach made plans to have dinner with Peng when he arrives in Beijing for the Winter Games, which open on Feb. 4.
“She appeared to be relaxed,” Terho said in the IOC’s statement. “I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.
In addition to the video call, Peng appeared at a youth tennis event in Beijing on Sunday. But many have still called her safety into question after the tennis star revealed in early November that she had had an affair with Gaoli, a former member of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee, that later turned non-consensual.
The post, which Peng uploaded to Chinese social media site Weibo, was removed within minutes and Peng’s account was suspended. In the weeks since she disappeared from public eye, many have spoken out in concern.
Serena Williams wrote on social media: “This must be investigated and we must not stay silent.” Naomi Osaka also commented on Peng’s disappearance, saying, “Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok.”
As concern for Peng’s safety has grown in the past week, the IOC has remained relatively quiet in public. The WTA, meanwhile, has been vocal, stating that they are “at a crossroads with China.” In a statement, the WTA continued to emphasize its concerns over Peng’s well-being.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email to ESPN.
“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”