A senior Olympic official has defended his organization’s efforts to confirm Peng Shuai’s safety, calling the reviews “silly” and saying no one else was able to get in touch with the missing tennis star after posting allegations of sexual assault.
Dick Pound, who held various positions in the IOC for 45 years and is the president of Olympic Broadcasting Services, dismissed criticism of the IOC for providing minimal information after its president, Thomas Bach, spoke with Peng by video link last week. Some had accused the IOC of trying not to irritate Beijing and of prioritizing the trade relationship over the safety of the athletes. China is due to host the Winter Olympics in February.
Pound’s defense of his organization’s handling of the case came as Western countries increasingly call on China to release clear evidence that Peng is safe.
“The EU is asking the Chinese government to provide verifiable proof of the safety, well-being and whereabouts of Peng Shuai,” the bloc said in a statement Tuesday.
He also urged “Chinese authorities to conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation into his allegations of sexual assault” against a senior retired Chinese official.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Pound said criticisms of his organization were “stupid” and “unsupported by evidence.” He said the fact that the IOC was able to contact her when others hadn’t should reassure her, and suggested that was not unusual.
“I was disappointed, I thought everyone was anxious to know that she was fine and healthy. The IOC was able to establish her and the others weren’t. Suddenly, it’s someone’s fault. another if his questions have not been answered, ”he said.
In an essay posted to social media this month, Peng, a former world number 1 doubles player, accused Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese vice premier, of forcing her to have sex three years ago. years. The post was quickly deleted and Peng was not seen in public for more than two weeks as the Women’s Tennis Association and colleagues said they were unable to reach her.
As an international campaign of responses to its whereabouts grew, fueled by apparent crass propaganda published by Chinese state media, the IOC was urged to use the Beijing Winter Games for assurances. on Peng’s safety.
A subsequent 30-minute call with Peng included Bach, IOC Athletes’ Commission chairwoman Emma Terho, and IOC member Li Lingwei, former vice-president of the Chinese Tennis Association. Bach said Peng told them she was safe and wanted privacy.
However, human rights groups and other supporters of Peng said they remained concerned that she could not speak out freely and criticized the IOC for not responding to the calls. initial allegations, or why Peng hadn’t posted more messages or why her friends couldn’t reach her.
Yaqiu Wang, senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, accused the IOC of “playing an active role in the Chinese government’s enforced disappearance, coercion and propaganda devices.”
Pound said on Tuesday that people “not on the phone” did not have the benefit of knowing what the discussion had been, and everyone “should be reassured that she is fine and healthy and that he is not. there is no sign of coercion, rather than speculating on what might be the case. “
The IOC, and Pound in particular, have resisted calls to broadcast the recording of the call.
Meanwhile, a pro-Beijing British commentator for CGTN, the Chinese state-owned English news broadcaster, said on Monday that he was banned by the outlet for publicly questioning CGTN’s ability to convince the world of Peng’s well-being.
CGTN had published a text which it said was an email from Peng to the WTA, but it was widely dismissed as suspect.
South Korea-based Tom Fowdy said in an English article on Chinese social media site Weibo that he wrote this article on Russian public information site RT because “I love China and I despises what the United States is doing in its propaganda war. everyday”.
“Sometimes we can’t run away from the truth just because we want to pretend things are good when they might not be,” he wrote.