Chinese tennis star Peng Shaui, whose disappearance from the public eye after making a sexual assault allegation raised safety concerns, had a video call with senior Olympic officials.
Peng had met in a 30-minute video conference with President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, or IOC, and two other IOC officials to discuss his safety, the organization said on Sunday.
It is not known when the call took place. The IOC’s statement coincided with the publication of photos and a video of Peng at a youth tournament in Beijing.
“She explained that she was fine and that she lived at her home in Beijing, but that she would like her privacy to be respected for the time being,” said the IOC. “That’s why she prefers to spend her time with her friends and family right now.”
Emma Terho, president of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, said Peng appeared “to be doing well” during the call.
“She seemed relaxed,” Terho said. “I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”
Tennis stars around the world have expressed concern for Peng over the past week, circulating the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai on social media. They feared for her safety after she alleged that Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister in his 60s, sexually assaulted her during an otherwise intermittent relationship while in office.
Peng made the accusation on November 2 in a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. It was quickly deleted and the social media debate appeared to be called off by censors.
Zhang was once one of China’s most powerful officials under President Xi Jinping. He retired in 2018 and was not available to comment on the topic.
NBC News did not see the post until it was deleted from Peng’s account, which has more than half a million subscribers. It was not clear if she had deleted the post or if it had been deleted by Chinese censors.
Last week, Chinese State Television released a statement in English attributed to Peng who withdrew his charge against Zhang.
Some of the biggest names in tennis have sounded the alarm after noting that Peng has not been seen in public since then, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic.
The White House was “deeply concerned about reports that Peng Shuai appears to have disappeared,” press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference on Friday. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied knowing about Friday’s outcry.
Steve Simon, president of the Women’s Tennis Association, or WTA, said last week that he allegedly received an email from Peng saying she was resting at home and not missing. But Simon questioned the authenticity of the email, saying he “repeatedly tried to reach her via many forms of communication, to no avail.”
“I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote down the email we received or to believe what is attributed to him,” Simon said, adding that the world needed “independent and verifiable evidence that ‘she is safe.’
Simon said in a statement after the release of the statement that the WTA’s relationship with China “is at a crossroads.”
“While it is positive to see her, it is still unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and act on her own, without coercion or outside interference,” said Simon. “This video alone is insufficient.”
Peng is one of the biggest stars of Chinese tennis in recent years, a former world No. 1 in doubles who won doubles titles at Wimbledon and Roland Garros in 2013 and 2014.
His situation highlights a growing problem for sports organizations trying to balance China’s vast business opportunities with concerns over Beijing’s widely criticized human rights and censorship record.
Simon told the New York Times last week that he would consider a boycott of China by the WTA unless he sees “appropriate results” in the matter.