Reporter Who Talked to Peng Shuai Says Doubts Remain | Tennis News

One of the reporters who conducted the first interview with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said on Tuesday the carefully controlled conversation did not answer questions about her ability to speak her mind or move freely.

A Chinese Olympics official was in the room and translated the conversation with Peng, who disappeared from public view for weeks after making public allegations that a prominent former communist party had forced her into a relationship sexual.

His social media post was quickly deleted and Peng was not seen for a few weeks, then only appeared in photo ops organized by Chinese officials. Concerns about him have led to a worldwide wave of fears for his safety.

Marc Ventouillac, one of two reporters for French sports daily L’Equipe who spoke to Peng this week in a restrictive interview set up with Chinese Olympic officials, says he is still not sure whether she is free.

“It’s impossible to say,” he said in English, saying the interview doesn’t prove she’s safe.

Ventouillac says China’s intention was clear to him: By granting the interview as Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, Chinese officials hope to end the controversy, so it doesn’t overshadow the event.

“It’s part of the communication, the propaganda, of the Chinese Olympic Committee,” Ventouillac told The Associated Press on Tuesday, the day after the L’Equipe exclusive was published.

Ventouillac said Chinese officials hoped the interview would show “there is no problem with Peng Shuai. See?”

The interview, along with a dinner Peng had with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and appearances she made at Olympic venues, shone a spotlight on the three-time Olympian and former top-ranked doubles player. .

On Tuesday, Peng sat down with Bach and watched American-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu win gold in the women’s big air.

Apparently, the goal is to answer the question that other players and fans around the world have posted online: where is Peng Shuai?

“It’s important, I think, for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the Communist Party and for a lot of people in China to try to show, ‘No, there’s no Peng Shuai case,'” declared Ventouillac.

The Women’s Professional Tennis Tour said the interview “does not alleviate any of our concerns” about the allegations she made in November.

“Peng took a bold step by publicly announcing that she had been sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government official,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said in a statement.

“As we would with any of our players around the world, we have requested a formal investigation into the allegations by the relevant authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss his situation.”

Ventouillac said Peng “appears to be in good health.”

To secure the interview, organized by the Chinese Olympic Committee with the help of the IOC, L’Equipe agreed to send questions in advance and publish its answers verbatim, in Q&A form. Originally allotted half an hour, Ventouillac said they ended up getting nearly double that and asking all the questions they wanted, beyond the “8 or 10” they had pre-submitted.

“There was no censorship in the questions,” he said.

A Chinese Olympic official joined in the discussion, translating Peng’s comments from Chinese. The newspaper then called on an interpreter in Paris to ensure the accuracy of the remarks it published in French on Monday. It was his first discussion with non-Chinese media since the indictment.

“She answered our questions without hesitation — with, I imagine, answers she knew. She knew what she was going to say,” Ventouillac said.

“But you can’t tell if it was formatted or something. She said what we expected of her.”

“We started by asking about tennis… It helped her relax, relax,” he said.

Ventouillac said she seemed more nervous and cautious when asked about the position and her relationship with the official.

Ventouillac said one of L’Equipe’s goals for the interview was to show Peng that “she’s not alone” and that people around the world care about her.

He believes the international support helped protect her during the controversy. Someone less well known outside of China would likely be in jail for such an allegation against a senior official, Ventouillac speculated.

In a lengthy article in November, Peng wrote that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and a member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals. The post, on her verified account on a top Chinese social media platform, Weibo, also said they had sex once seven years ago and she developed romantic feelings for him. him afterwards. Zhang did not comment on the accusation.

“Initially I buried it all in my heart,” she wrote.

“Why would you even come find me, take me to your house and force me and you to have sex?”

It was quickly deleted from his account. Peng told L’Equipe that she deleted it but gave no reason other than to say, “Because I wanted to.”

She also said the message was misunderstood.

“A sexual assault? I never said someone sexually assaulted me,” she told the newspaper.

“This post has caused a huge misunderstanding from the outside world,” she also said.

“My wish is that the meaning of this message is no longer biased.” (AP) PDS PDS

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