China’s Foreign Ministry Says Peng Shuai Case Should Not Be Politicized

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, declined to comment on whether the Chinese government will launch an investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. He reiterated earlier comments made to reporters, saying that Peng’s situation “was not a diplomatic issue.”

“I think everyone has also seen her attend some public events recently, as well as the video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (Thomas) Bach, “Zhao said. When asked by a reporter whether the Peng case would negatively affect China’s image, Zhao said,” I think some people should stop malvertising and not politicize this issue. “

His comments echo those of a prominent editor of a Chinese state newspaper on Tuesday. “Some Western forces are coercing Peng Shuai and an institution, forcing them to help demonize the Chinese system,” Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on Twitter.

Peng, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion and one of China’s top tennis players, publicly accused Zhang of forcing her to have sex at his home, according to screenshots from a social media post that has since been deleted. , dated November 2.

Her disappearance from public life for more than two weeks after the indictment sparked a wave of international concern, with the Women’s Tennis Association and the United Nations calling for an investigation into his allegations of sexual assault.

WTA chief Steve Simon threatened to withdraw from China unless Peng was taken into account and his allegations were investigated.

On Sunday, IOC President Bach made a video call with Peng, accompanied by Chinese sports official Li Lingwei and the president of the Athletes Commission, Emma Terho.

The IOC did not provide CNN with access to the video, but said in a statement that Peng insisted that she is “fine and safe, living at her home in Beijing, but that she would like her privacy to be respected at this time.”

The call, which reportedly lasted 30 minutes, appeared to be Peng’s first known direct contact with officials outside of China since he made the allegations.

Amnesty International said the IOC was “entering dangerous waters” with the video call.

“They must be very careful not to participate in any cover-up of a possible human rights violation,” said Amnesty China researcher Alkan Akad.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai finally appeared in public.  But here's why worries don't go away

The WTA also renewed its demand for an investigation after the convocation.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” the spokesperson told CNN in a statement.

“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into his allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that generated our initial concern.”

The Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s allegations against Zhang and there is no indication that an investigation is underway. It is unclear whether Peng has reported his allegations to the police.

Zhang has kept a low profile and vanished from public life since his retirement in 2018, and there is no public information regarding his current whereabouts.

In China, high-ranking party leaders like Zhang are often beyond public reproach, even when they are retired. As vice premier, Zhang served on the seven-member Polituro Standing Committee of the Communist Party, the country’s supreme leadership body, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

CNN’s Beijing office contributed the information.

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