(Reuters) – The independent German organization of elite athletes has urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to provide evidence of the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and has called for an independent investigation into her situation.
Peng’s fate has become a matter of international concern after a public absence of nearly three weeks after posting a social media post in early November alleging that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her.
Neither Zhang, who retired in 2018, nor the Chinese government has commented on Peng’s claim and the topic has been blocked for direct discussion on the heavily censored internet in China.
Following concerns over the treatment of former world number one doubles Peng and the safety of other players, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) last week announced the immediate suspension of tournaments in China.
Following the WTA’s decision, the IOC said it had set up a second video call with Peng, after first speaking to him on November 21.
Athleten Deutschland said the IOC’s statements “provide no evidence as to whether Peng Shuai is really safe, if she can make free decisions and if she can speak out without coercion or censorship.”
He praised the WTA for standing up for Peng and said the IOC should follow suit. It must “put the protection of the survivor above political and economic considerations,” said Athleten Deutschland.
He also called for an independent investigation into the matter.
Reuters has contacted the IOC for comment.
Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. Global human rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Games because of China’s human rights record.
Athleten Deutschland also called on the IOC to make the protection of athletes its top priority and to ensure the safety of athletes at the Beijing Games.
The group also urged the IOC to commit to human rights and implement a human rights strategy, and to push China to seek assurances on human rights to Winter games.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bangalore; Editing by Angus MacSwan)