Steve Simon, the head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), is still “deeply concerned” about the safety and whereabouts of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who had claimed that a former Vice Premier had forced her to have sex with him.

In a Nov. 2 Weibo post, the former top-ranked doubles player had accused Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse after which the post was taken down by Chinese authorities and then she dropped out of public view. This is the most important case of its kind in the country's #MeToo movement, which is yet to pick up speed there, reported BBC.

According to Associated Press, the WTA issued a statement Saturday in which it was mentioned that Simon had reached out to the athlete via various communication channels, including two emails, to which "it was clear her responses were influenced by others." The WTA's head remains "deeply concerned" that Shuai is "not free from censorship or coercion and decided not to re-engage via email until he was satisfied her responses were her own, and not those of her censors." The association is still "concerned about her ability to communicate freely, openly, and directly.”

As people wondered about Shuai's safety, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement on Nov. 21 that its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with the tennis star, and that during the call, Shuai appeared to be "doing fine" and "relaxed," and said she "would like to have her privacy respected," according to CNN.

The IOC's role in teaming up with Chinese authorities on Shuai's reappearance was criticized by Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW China Director Sophie Richardson said on Nov. 23 that it's a whole different order of magnitude to see Bach, in a photograph with Shuai, "under intense pressure, we can reasonably assume from other cases, to walk back her claims of sexual assault, rather than figuring doing everything in his and the organization's power to call that out and make sure that she is afforded the support and investigation and prosecution that may well be warranted."

Dick Pound, a long-time IOC member, was "puzzled" by the reaction to the video call between Bach and Shuai, and said that many people were looking to see what happened to her and nobody was able to contact her. He noted that only the IOC was able to contact her, and there was a conversation that was held by video with Bach and two female IOC members. He shared that the video wasn't released probably because that "aspect of it was private." But he noted that she was found in good spirits and health.

Meanwhile, Gaoli, who was the head of a Chinese government working group for the Beijing Games at one point of time, has been keeping a low profile since his retirement in 2018.

Peng Shuai
Peng Shuai of China in action during her Women's Singles first round match against Nao Hibino of Japan on day two of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images

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