I have but one question. Did this rodent even once broach the subject that caused Beijing to disappear her in the first place, her claim that she was sexually assaulted in 2018 by China’s former vice premier?
Today, IOC President Thomas Bach, the Chair of the IOC Athletes' Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China, Li Lingwei, held a video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China.
— Athlete365 (@Athlete365) November 21, 2021
Judging from the IOC readout of the call, he did not.
Today, IOC President Thomas Bach held a video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China. He was joined by the Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei, who has known Peng Shuai for many years from her time in the Chinese Tennis Federation.
At the beginning of the 30-minute call, Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being. She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated,” said Emma Terho.
Li Lingwei is VP of China’s Olympic Committee, per an NBC reporter who rightly asked, “Would Peng Shuai be comfortable speaking freely in front of a senior Chinese official?” I’m sure there were also “minders” out of frame on Peng’s side of the call making sure that she seemed appropriately cheerful for her audience with Bach.
If I lived in a totalitarian state and had just accused a high-ranking official of a grievous crime, the last thing I’d ever demand is for people to “respect my privacy at this time.” To the contrary, I’d want a camera on me 24/7/365 livestreaming my whereabouts to the planet. If, on the other hand, I were a top IOC official willing to do business with the worst regimes on Earth in the name of making a buck, I’d happily pronounce myself satisfied upon being told by a political prisoner that everything’s cool and people should stop checking up on her.
Let the Games begin.
Actually, I have a second question related to this travesty: Why wasn’t Peng also granted a video call with Steve Simon, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association and someone who’s sincerely concerned about her welfare beyond what it might mean for his outfit’s lucrative upcoming sporting events in China? Simon tried to reach Peng after she disappeared, of course, “via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.” It’s passing strange that, if she’s in control of whom she speaks to, she’d agree to chat with the head of the money-grubbing IOC but wouldn’t take five minutes to reassure the person who’s leading an international push to ensure her well-being.
Giving Bach an audience with Peng but not Simon is actually a supreme statement of Beijing’s contempt for the character of the IOC. It signals that they know which outfits can be trusted to roll over and participate in a publicity stunt in the name of making a buck and which are less reliable.
Amnesty International is underwhelmed by the IOC’s assurances:
A researcher for @Amnesty warned that the International Olympic Committee needs to protect itself against potential whitewashing of human rights allegations in the wake of speaking to Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai pic.twitter.com/CkWUzwpDuD
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 22, 2021
Even if Simon is ultimately granted a call, though, what would it matter? Realistically Peng will never be free to speak unless she and her entire family are allowed to leave China for the west. It’s impossible to imagine the CCP agreeing to that given the nature of her accusations against the former vice premier.
I’ve been wondering how she assumed this would play out once she posted her claim about him on Chinese social media. She knew that the censors would hurriedly delete it, she knew that she’d immediately be taken into custody and put under house arrest at best, and … then what? Why did she think she could take on the ChiComs and not pay with her freedom, if not her life? This NYT story offers a clue. As an athletic celebrity in China, Peng had a bit more leverage in her dealings with the regime than the average Chinese citizen does.
Ms. Peng carved out a professional tennis career that meant taking on officials who tried to dictate whom she could train with, what tournaments she could play in and how much money she could keep for herself…
By the mid-2000s, Ms. Peng decided she was no longer willing to give more than half of her earnings away to the state. She and three other Chinese players decided to break out of the state’s control, effectively by threatening to stop playing.
Even so, she had to realize that accusing a top government official of rape would be handled differently than insisting upon keeping more of her earnings. All I can think is that her compulsion to tell the truth by revealing what happened to her ultimately overrode all other considerations, rationally or not. She’s caged now but unburdened.
I’ll leave you with CNN’s report on Peng this morning, which the network made a point of noting is being censored in China. As for the IOC, its complicity in China’s effort to whitewash what’s happened to Peng only strengthens the case for boycotting the Beijing Games. Bad enough that we’d reward one rotten regime with our presence, but two?
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) November 22, 2021