Washington – The U.S. State Department said Monday it is “closely monitoring” developments regarding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts have been in question after she accused one of China’s former vice premiers of sexual impropriety.
“We share the concern that has been expressed around the world as we all want her of course to be safe,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press conference, adding, “Rest assured we are closely following her and the situation.”
The United States supports the ability of individuals to report sexual assault and believes that any allegation anywhere in the world should be investigated, Price said.
The International Olympic Committee said Sunday that Peng told IOC officials during a video call the same day that she is “safe and well,” living at her home in Beijing. But concerns remain about whether she is able to communicate without censorship or coercion.
Price accused Beijing of taking “essentially a zero-tolerance approach for criticism” and silencing, or attempting to silence, those who attempt to speak out.
Earlier this month, Peng claimed to have had an affair with former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in a social media post under her real name, with the news going viral on the internet. The post on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, was swiftly deleted.
Peng competed at the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She has won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon and the French Open — two of the four major global tennis tournaments.
Price’s remarks came as U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged Thursday that he is considering a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Olympics slated for February, suggesting no U.S. government representatives will attend the global sporting event.
The boycott, which would not affect the participation of U.S. athletes, is seen as a response to China’s alleged human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in its far-western Xinjiang region that Washington has labeled as “genocide.”
Price said Monday that “there are a range of factors” to take into consideration when it comes to what presence the United States should have at the games, noting these include “deep concerns with the human rights abuses in Xinjiang.” But he did not provide further updates on the possible boycott.
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