Beijing attacks Peng Shuai at press conference

Thomas Bach will meet Peng Shuai at the Beijing Winter Olympics to assess his “physical integrity and mental state”, the head of the International Olympic Committee told a press conference overnight, as the controversy persisted until ‘on the eve of the opening ceremony.

Bach said the International Olympic Committee would support an investigation into the tennis star’s allegation of sexual assault against a high-ranking Chinese politician – if she asked for one.

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Preparations for the Beijing Olympics, which open with a ceremony at Bird’s Nest Stadium on Friday, have been overshadowed by human rights concerns, the Covid pandemic and even fears that the Chinese government spies on athletes.

Peng, a former Grand Slam doubles champion, was also a major talking point after she alleged on Chinese social media in November that former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex during a match. an intermittent relationship.

It was the first time the #MeToo movement touched China’s ruling Communist Party.

The allegation was quickly scrubbed from China’s tightly controlled internet and Peng went unheard for nearly three weeks, only to reappear in public and she then held a video call with Bach.

In December, she denied ever making the allegation, but it’s still unclear just how free and safe the three-time Olympian truly is.

Bach did not say exactly when during the Games he will meet her, but said: “If she wants to have an investigation, of course, we will also support her in this area. But it must be her decision. It’s her life. , these are his allegations.

“We had the allegations and we heard the withdrawal.

“We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation and then we will also know better about his physical integrity and his mental state when we can finally meet in person.

Concerns still exist for Peng Shuai’s safety. (Photo by AFP)/China OUTSource: AFP

“It’s not just a sign of respect, it’s a necessity, to respect her, to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out step by step.”

Liza Lin, China correspondent for the the wall street journaltweeted a photo from the press conference and explained how the opening of the Games was derailed by other matters, including rule 50 of the Olympic charter – which concerns the ban on athletes from engaging in any form of protest and will be confirmed in Beijing after much debate.

the New York Times reports that Peng Shuai was such a sensitive subject that an interpreter at the press conference did not mention his name when she relayed a question from a reporter.

China hopes the Olympics will be a triumph of soft power, but there are other controversies, including the environmental impact of the Games taking place in one of the country’s driest regions and relying almost entirely on snow artificial.

The United States, Britain, Canada and Australia are among the countries mounting a diplomatic boycott of human rights, with the plight of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority being of particular concern.

Washington accuses China of perpetrating genocide in the Xinjiang region. China has warned that the United States will “pay the price” for its diplomatic boycott.

Athletes from boycotting countries will take part in the Games, which will run until February 20, but a US rights monitor has sounded the alarm over athlete safety after hosts threatened ‘punishment’ for anti-Beijing comments .

Fearing surveillance, some Western countries have told their athletes to leave their personal devices at home and use temporary burner phones.

There are signs that China is tightening the noose on anyone who dares to spoil the party, with human rights activists and some academics whose WeChat messaging app accounts have been restricted in recent weeks.

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