Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has given her first interview to an independent media organization since she alleged on Weibo that a senior Chinese official had forced her to have sex, saying it was a “huge misunderstanding”.
The interview with French sports daily L’Équipe came as the International Olympic Committee said it was not up to them or anyone else “to judge, one way or another, their position.”
Peng disappeared from public life after the Weibo post in November, sparking a major international campaign calling on Chinese authorities to confirm that she was safe and sound.
Speaking to L’Équipe in Beijing, Peng said his original statement had been misconstrued. He said he had never accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault and denied disappearing from public view afterwards.
The tennis star was accompanied to the interview by the chief of staff of the Chinese Olympic Committee, who also acted as a translator, according to the report. L’Équipe was also required to submit questions in advance and publish their comments word for word in the form of questions and answers, as preconditions for the interview.
Peng thanked everyone for caring about her well-being, but also questioned why it had been “exaggerated”.
“I didn’t think there would be so much concern and I would like to know: why so much concern?” she said.
Peng said there was a “huge misunderstanding” about her post, which she confirmed she deleted herself just under 30 minutes after posting it because she “wanted to.” She did not elaborate.
In early November, Peng posted an essay on Weibo, describing an on-and-off consensual relationship with the 75-year-old woman, and an incident in which he allegedly pressured her into sex after inviting her over to his house to play. tennis with him and his wife.
Amid what she described as “complicated feelings,” they allegedly rekindled the affair, until there was an argument and he didn’t meet with her shortly before publication.
In the L’Equipe interview, Peng reiterated comments she made to a Singapore state-controlled outlet in December, saying she never accused Zhang or anyone else of sexually assaulting her.
“I hope we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more publicity to this,” she said. “I never said someone sexually assaulted me.”
In her post, Peng had described Zhang pressuring her to have sex and she disagreed, before relenting.
“After dinner I still didn’t want to, and you said you hated me! You also said that in these seven years you never forgot me and that you would be good for me, etc., etc. translation Why is there on Weibo.
“I was scared and panicked and with the emotions of seven years ago, I accepted… yes, we had sex.”
The post went viral despite its quick removal from Weibo. With efforts to contact Peng proving fruitless and the issue completely censored inside China, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) director Steve Simon went public with his concern for her well-being, and world tennis stars began advocating under the hashtag #whereispengshuai.
The saga remained off limits to people inside China, with blanket censorship banning even social media posts about “tennis.”
Nearly three weeks later, China’s English-language external state media began to question global concerns, publishing a translation of an email purportedly from Peng to Simon, which Peng later said she wrote, and videos of various public appearances. apparently choreographed.
In the interview with L’Équipe, Peng also said that she “never disappeared” and that she did not know why such concern spread.
“It’s just that a lot of people, like my friends, including those from the IOC, sent me messages and it was quite impossible to reply to so many messages,” he said, adding that he had answered emails from friends and from the WTA, but had difficulty accessing them. to the organization’s online communications system.
Also on Monday the International Olympic Committee Announced its president, Thomas Bach, had met face-to-face with Peng on Saturday, along with former Athletes’ Commission chairwoman and IOC member Kirsty Coventry.
“During dinner, the three discussed their common experience as athletes in the Olympic Games, and Peng Shuai discussed his disappointment at not being able to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” a statement said. He added that Peng had accepted an invitation to meet again in Europe and keep in touch with Coventry.
The statement did not mention the accusations or Bach’s recent comments that he would support her if she wanted an investigation into Zhang.
At a news conference on Monday, spokesman Mark Adams said the IOC, as a sports organization, was doing “everything we can to make sure she is happy.”
“I don’t think it’s up to us to be able to judge in one way, just as it’s not up to you to judge, one way or another, his position,” he said.
Despite multiple attempts by the WTA, only the IOC has been able to meet with Peng.
Questions have been raised in the past about the IOC’s handling of the matter, with the organization accused of accepting too easily the Chinese government’s assurances about Peng’s well-being ahead of the Winter Olympics.
In her interview, Peng urged not to conflate sports and politics, a key message from Beijing during the Olympics as it faces widespread scrutiny and criticism for its human rights record, with diplomatic boycotts and social media campaigns to trade or viewing boycotts.
“My sentimental problems, my private life, should not be involved in sports and politics,” he said.
“Sport should not be politicized because when it is, most of the time it amounts to turning our backs on the Olympic spirit, and it goes against the will of the world of sport and athletes.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism