One of the journalists who spoke to Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai in a controlled interview on Monday said the conversation did not prove she was safe, the Associated Press reported.
Questions regarding Peng’s ability to move and speak freely were not answered, Marc Ventouillac, a reporter for French sports daily L’Equipe, told the AP on Tuesday. The conversation between Peng and the journalist was carefully conducted, with a Chinese Olympic official in the room translating the dialogue.
Peng called her earlier allegations of sexual assault against a former top Chinese official “an enormous misunderstanding” and said she deleted the social media post herself in the interview.
Ventouillac noted Peng “seems to be healthy” but said it was “impossible to say” whether Peng was free, the AP reported. He said it was clear China intended to end the controversy surrounding the tennis player by granting him the interview.
“It’s a part of communication, propaganda, from the Chinese Olympic Committee,” Ventouillac told the AP, noting China sought to use the interview as an opportunity to say “there is no problem with Peng Shuai. See?”
“It’s important, I think, for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the Communist Party and for many people in China to try to show: ‘No, there is no Peng Shuai affair,’” he said.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which suspended all tournaments in China because they were not provided proof of Peng’s well-being, said the interview did not alleviate their concerns, the AP reported.
“Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader,” said WTA chief executive Steve Simon, according to the AP.
“As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng — privately — to discuss her situation,” Simon said, the AP reported.
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