Peng Shuai backtracks on sexual assault charges against Chinese government official
February 7, 2022, 08:58 | Updated: February 7, 2022, 10:41
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied making a sexual assault allegation against a Chinese government official in a new interview.
Peng said in a social media post in November that she was forced to have sex with former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
His post was quickly deleted and his silence raised fears for his safety.
But now the former doubles number one has given an interview to French newspaper L’Equipe, accompanied by Chinese Olympic Committee chief of staff Wang Kan, who has translated her answers.
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Peng described reports that she accused a senior Chinese official of sexual assault as a “huge misunderstanding” as she repeated her denial that the alleged incident ever took place.
“I never said anyone sexually assaulted me in any way,” she said.
“There has been a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post.
“I don’t want the meaning of this post to be distorted any longer.
“And I don’t want any more hype around it.”
She also insisted she was unaware of the global concern.
“I never disappeared,” she said.
“Everyone could see me. I never disappeared.
“It’s just that a lot of people, like my friends or people from the IOC [International Olympic Committee] messaged me, and it was just impossible to reply to so many messages.
“But I have always been in close contact with my close friends.”
Peng’s situation sparked a global call for transparency led by the Women’s Tennis Association, which in December announced the suspension of all tournaments in China due to its dissatisfaction with the response to the Chinese authorities’ allegations.
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The interview was released alongside a statement from the International Olympic Committee, which confirmed Peng had dinner on Saturday with its chairman Thomas Bach and former IOC Athletes’ Commission chairwoman Kirsty Coventry.
Bach was criticized for steering the IOC towards a less confrontational approach, instead pursuing a meeting with Peng, the details of which the organization said would only be released at Peng’s discretion.
Peng attended Monday’s mixed curling match between China and Norway and, according to the IOC, has declared his intention to attend more events at the Winter Olympics over the next two weeks.
She also accepted an invitation to visit the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.
The IOC said: “Over dinner, the three talked about their common experience as athletes at the Olympic Games, and Peng Shuai expressed his disappointment at not being able to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. .
“In this context, she also announced her intention to travel to Europe once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, and the IOC President invited her to Lausanne to visit the IOC and the Olympic Museum, in order to continue the conversation about their Olympic experiences.
“Peng Shuai accepted this invitation.”