Olympic officials: Chinese tennis star Peng says she is safe

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BEIJING — Missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai told Olympic officials in a video call from Beijing that she was safe and well, the International Olympic Committee said Sunday after Peng reappeared in public at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizer.

The 30-minute call came amid growing global alarm over Peng after she accused a former leading Communist Party official of sexual assault. China’s ruling Communist Party has tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng.

Sunday’s call — with IOC president Thomas Bach, athletes commission chair Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Association — appears to be Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on Nov. 2.

Peng “thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being,” the Switzerland-based Olympic body said in a statement.

“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,” the statement said.

Peng, who played for China at three Olympics from 2008 to 2016, made the sexual assault allegation on Chinese social media three weeks ago against a former member of the Communist Party’s ruling Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli.

That post was removed within minutes and the former top-ranked doubles player went missing from public view. She did not respond publicly to calls for information to show she was safe.

Peng adds to a growing number of Chinese businesspeople, activists and ordinary people who have disappeared in recent years after criticizing party figures or in crackdowns on corruption or pro-democracy and labor rights campaigns.

Some reemerge weeks or months later without explanation, suggesting they are warned not to disclose they were detained or the reason.

Bach, the IOC president, has invited Peng to join him at a dinner when he arrives in Beijing in January “which she gladly accepted,” the IOC said Sunday. Terho and Li were also invited.

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” Terho said in the IOC statement. The hockey player from Finland represents athletes on the IOC executive board.

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