Peng Shuai has appeared in public, but concerns about her safety not going away
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai appeared in public over the weekend, after increasing calls about her whereabouts from across the world. Several videos and pictures released by China's state-controlled media showed Peng going about her life in Beijing; she even spoke to the chief of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach on Sunday.
But all this hasn't stopped the voices of concerns from being raised about her safety in China.
"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," a Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) spokeswoman said in an e-mail response to news agency Reuters.
The IOC released a photo of Bach facing a screen on which Peng appears but did not release video of the call. The IOC's short statement, which offered few details and no follow-up on her allegations, is leading to increasing criticism of the sports body.
Amnesty International's China researcher Alkan Akad told Reuters the video call did little to alleviate fears over Peng's well-being.
"The International Olympic Committee is entering dangerous waters," Akad said. "In the past we have seen various similar cases where people had no option but to say what they had been told to."
Some critics say the IOC's handling of the call with Peng makes it an active partner in delivering Beijing’s message - while not providing Peng with an open forum to discuss her allegations.
French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu's office said she "is partly reassured by the video but remains concerned and wants the light to be shed on the accusations of sexual assault".
The United Kingdom on Monday demanded that Beijing allow her to speak out without fear of repercussions.
Meanwhile, Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-owned newspaper Global Times who has in recent days posted videos and photographs of Peng in Beijing, said on Twitter on Monday that her appearance should be enough to ease worries of "those who truly care about (the) safety of Peng Shuai".
Peng disappeared from public view after publishing on November 2 a statement on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, accusing the former Chinese vice-premier, 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, of sexually assaulting her. The post was immediately deleted, Peng's accounts were removed from the Chinese social networks and the athlete stopped communicating, raising concerns for her safety.