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Missing Chinese Tennis Star Says She Is Safe


Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai signs large-sized tennis balls at the opening ceremony of Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Final in Beijing, China, Nov. 21, 2021, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. (Twitter @QINGQINGPARIS via Reute

Missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai reappeared in public Sunday at a youth tournament in Beijing and later told an Olympic official she is safe and well.

Peng had not been seen since earlier this month after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese vice premier, of forcing her to have sex several years ago. Her absence from public sight had prompted international demands for Chinese officials to account for her safety.

On Sunday, the three-time Olympian and former Wimbledon champion appeared standing beside a tennis court, waving and signing oversized commemorative tennis balls for children.

Later, she had a 30-minute call with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, who said she thanked the IOC for its concern about her.

"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," the IOC said in a statement.

"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,” the IOC said.

The China Open posted a note on the Weibo social media network on Peng’s appearance at the youth tournament but made no mention of her disappearance or accusation that she was assaulted.

The women's professional tennis tour had threatened to pull events out of China unless Peng’s safety was assured.

Dave Haggerty, the International Tennis Federation president and International Olympic Committee member, said in a statement Sunday, "Our primary concern is Peng Shuai's safety and her well-being. The videos of her this weekend appear to be a positive step, but we will continue to seek direct engagement and confirmation from Peng Shuai herself that she is safe and well."

Peng’s disappearance and accusation against the former Chinese official is occurring as Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics starting on February 4 amid international condemnation of China’s human rights record.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and the Associated Press.