Nov 22, 2021 - Sports

China's Peng Shuai scandal is far from over

Peng Shuai on a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach.
Peng Shuai on a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach. Photo: Greg Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who disappeared after accusing a former top government official of sexual assault, reemerged this weekend — but this story is far from over.

Driving the news: Peng held a 30-minute video call on Sunday with IOC president Thomas Bach. According to the IOC, she is safe and well at her Beijing home and asked for privacy at this time.

State of play: The unverified videos, photos and statement have been met with widespread skepticism, and the IOC call didn't satisfy WTA CEO Steve Simon, who has threatened to pull tournaments out of China and is demanding a proper investigation.

"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."
"[The IOC 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."
WTA statement

The backdrop: The Peng scandal comes amid calls to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics over China's human rights record. Last week, President Biden said the U.S. is "considering" a diplomatic boycott.

  • The IOC has faced intense backlash for holding the Games in Beijing, and was criticized for being slow to respond to Peng's disappearance.
  • The organization put its reputation further on the line with Sunday's video call, a seemingly casual chat that some have labeled a "publicity stunt."

The big picture: After decades of mostly silence from corporations, the WTA's willingness to challenge the Chinese government, demand transparency and risk losing millions of dollars is "radical and transgressive," writes Slate's Ben Rothenberg.

  • "We've grown so accustomed to silence when there's money at stake in the China market," tweeted the Economist's Gady Epstein.
  • Could the tide be shifting as the Olympics approach? Or is Simon's aggressive posture destined to be a mere footnote in history?

Go deeper: Missing Chinese tennis player tells Olympic Committee she is safe

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