The Executive Commission on China of the United States Congress (CECC), a bipartisan group of American lawmakers, criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for not doing enough to test the well-being of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.
Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon Democrat) and Rep. Jim McGovern (Massachusetts Democrat) Chairman and Co-Chair of the CECC, respectively, expressed their criticism in letters dated November 24 to IOC President Thomas Bach and the IOC. Chairman of the Athletes’ Commission Emma Terho.
Bach and Terho spoke to Peng during a video call on November 21 amid growing international concerns about the athlete’s condition.
Peng’s safety became an issue after she posted sexual assault allegations on social media on November 2 against Zhang Gaoli, a retired former Chinese Communist Party official who was once the Communist regime’s deputy prime minister. She claimed that Zhang coerced her into sex several years ago and then they had a temporary, consensual relationship.
She then disappeared from the public eye and reappeared in China’s state media last weekend, where one video showed her in a restaurant.
Peng, who was the world’s # 1 women’s doubles title in 2014, is currently ranked 192nd.
After Bach and Terho spoke with Peng on November 21, the IOC issued a statement in which Peng allegedly said she was “safe and healthy” and “lived in her home in Beijing.”
Terho was also quoted in the IOC statement: “I was delighted to see that Peng Shuai was doing well, which was our main concern. She seemed relaxed. “
In a letter to Terho, US lawmakers asked whether “it is appropriate, based on a single remote video call, to conclude that a person who claims to have been a victim of sexual assault is” okay. “
“MS. Peng’s current situation may make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to talk to her mental health even if she chooses to do so, given the tight censorship of her and her affairs, and the fact that access to her appears to be , controlled by the Chinese authorities. “, – wrote the deputies.
Beijing’s censors removed Peng’s online accusation about 30 minutes after she posted it in early November. Since then, references to the tennis star have been heavily censored in China.
The two lawmakers also told Bach that the IOC’s phone call with Peng “did not address many of the lingering concerns about her situation.”
“We do not know if she has freedom of movement or speech, or if she is in any form of forced home confinement. We do not know the state of her mental or physical health after being accused of sexual assault, let alone whether the authorities are investigating the subject of her accusation, ”the lawmakers wrote.
The Chinese regime uses house detention, also known as house arrest, as an extrajudicial method to silence people by subjecting them to arbitrary treatment. Even when they are allowed to leave their home for purposes such as buying basic necessities, they are likely to be followed by the police or disguised people working for the Chinese authorities.
One of the most famous victims of house arrest is Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese dissident and lawyer who was under house arrest for nearly 20 months before he fled to the United States in 2012. In July, he became a US citizen in Baltimore.
Merkley and McGovern asked Terho to “play a more active role in defense” Peng, including demanding that the Chinese regime investigate her claims.
As for Bach, the deputies made two requests. First, the IOC President should arrange for a video call between Peng and “a small group of journalists from independent international media” so that the tennis star can “speak out about the censorship imposed on her and her story by the Chinese. authorities.”
In the second request, Bach asked “as soon as possible” to organize a video call with two MPs.
“Your video call with Peng shows that you can really use the power of your office to weigh the issue of human rights in China,” the lawmakers wrote.
“So we can hear from you directly about whether you will use the power of your office to address human rights concerns in China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled for February in Beijing.