Peng Shuai: Human rights activist Peter Dahlin says IOC poses “greater risk” to Chinese tennis star


By Ben Church, CNN

Human rights activist Pierre Dahlin Says International Olympic Committee calls with Chinese tennis star Peng shuai put it at “greater risk” and that they are “obviously staged”.

One of China’s most recognizable sports stars, Peng has publicly accused a former senior Communist Party official, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, of forcing her to have sex at his home three years ago. in a social media post deleted since November 2.

Peng was immediately suffocated by general censorship and disappeared from public view for more than two weeks.

The IOC says he held two calls with Peng.

According to the Olympic organization, its president, Thomas Bach, held a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympian Peng, alongside a Chinese sports official and another IOC representative on November 21.

On Wednesday, the IOC held a second call with Peng and said the Chinese tennis star had “reconfirmed” that she was safe and well given the “difficult situation” she finds herself in.

“The practice of staged appearances is most often referred to as forced televised confessions, although recently the PRC [People’s Republic of China] police will more often resort to posting such videos on their social media or asking newspapers to post them on their websites, ”Dahlin wrote in a statement. open letter at the IOC on Thursday.

“The goal remains the same: either to attack the person himself – or himself – or to counter international criticism. “

The IOC was not immediately available for comment when CNN asked about Dahlin’s open letter.

Dahlin is the director of the human rights NGO Protect defenders. The open letter was published as an editorial by Dahlin and not by Safeguard Defenders, the human rights activist explained.

READ: Women’s tennis suspends all tournaments in China over concerns over Peng Shuai

The IOC defends itself

Dahlin said the video call with the IOC, which was not made public, bore similarities to when he was forced to apologize to the Chinese government on state television in 2016 after China accused him of working for an illegal organization that sponsored activities that endanger China’s national security.

The IOC told CNN it was not providing any visual material for Wednesday’s second video call with Peng amid growing skepticism about the freedom of communication with which she had been allowed, as well as concerns for her safety.

Long-time IOC member Dick Pound recently told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour he was “puzzled” by the reaction to the video call between Peng and Bach in November.

“Basically a lot of people around the world were looking to see what happened to Peng Shuai and no one was able to make contact,” he said.

“Only the IOC could do it, and there was a video conversation that took place with Thomas Bach, who is an older Olympic athlete, and two young female IOC members. No one posted the video because I’m assuming that aspect was private.

“They found her to be in good health and in a good mood and they saw no evidence of containment or anything like that.”

Pound added that he had not seen a recording of the video call, but “is simply relying on the combined judgment of the three IOC members who were on the call.”

WTA takes a tough stand

“Peng is not free. You know – or should know – that she is not free, ”Dahlin added.

“With each development of international criticism, like clockwork, Peng either magically appeared or someone provided something purporting to be of his own to counter such criticism.”

Dahlin accused the IOC of allowing himself to be used by the Chinese government and urged it to follow in the footsteps of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) which announced an immediate suspension from all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. , in response to Beijing’s decision. silence allegations of sexual assault.

A WTA spokeswoman told CNN on Thursday that she received another email from Peng.

According to the WTA, this is the third email he’s received from Peng.

Citing a “confirmed source” in a Twitter post on Thursday, Chinese state media affiliate Shen Shiwei said Shuai’s email “expressed shock at the unfair decision by the WTA to suspend all media. tournaments in China ”.

Reacting to the latest email, a WTA spokeswoman said the organization is upholding its decision to suspend tournaments in China.

READ: IOC Member Dick Pound ‘Puzzled’ by Reaction to Peng Shuai Video Call

In a statement released Thursday, the IOC said it was confident in its approach and management of the situation.

“We use ‘low-key diplomacy’ which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organizations, is shown to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters,” said the Minister. communicated.

However, Dahlin urged the IOC to change its position and said “quiet diplomacy can have its place, but it is not here.”

He added, “And you yourself obviously don’t believe it, because if you did, why are you advertising these video calls with Peng – especially since you refuse to release them. Is someone maybe telling you that you can’t free them?

“At the very least, educate yourself on the issue of enforced disappearances and staged confessions and appearances. “

Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s allegations against Zhang and there is no indication that an investigation is ongoing.

Zhang has kept a low profile and has withdrawn from public life since his retirement in 2018, and there is no public information regarding his current plight.

Before retiring as vice premier, Zhang was the head of a Chinese government task force for the Beijing Games. In this role, he inspected venues, visited athletes, unveiled official emblems and held meetings to coordinate preparation work.

Zhang had previously met IOC President Bach on at least one occasion, the two being pictured together shaking hands in the Chinese capital in 2016.

It is still unclear whether Peng reported his allegations to the police.

And at a press conference Thursday, responding to a question about the WTA’s withdrawal, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “China has always firmly opposed any act that politicizes sport. “.

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CNN’s Amy Woodyatt, Steve George and Nectar Gan contributed reporting.

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