Olympics: Don’t Promote Chinese State Propaganda
22 November 2021
The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) collaboration with Chinese authorities on tennis star Peng Shuai’s reappearance undermines its expressed commitment to human rights, including the rights and safety of athletes, Human Rights Watch said today.
On November 21, 2021, the IOC said in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, joined by a Chinese sports official and an IOC official. The statement said that, during the call, Peng appeared to be “doing fine” and “relaxed,” and said she “would like to have her privacy respected.” The IOC did not explain how the video call with Peng had been organized, given the difficulties other concerned parties have had reaching her.
“The IOC has vaulted itself from silence about Beijing’s abysmal human rights record to active collaboration with Chinese authorities in undermining freedom of speech and disregarding alleged sexual assault,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The IOC appears to prize its relationship with a major human rights violator over the rights and safety of Olympic athletes.”
The Chinese government forcibly disappears individuals whose views or conduct it sees as problematic, employs extralegal forms of detention and torture, and publishes forced confessions to make dubious cases appear legitimate. Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to silence critics, including human rights lawyers, journalists, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and Hong Kong publishers such as Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai. Other prominent people such as billionaire businessman Jack Ma, movie star Fan Bingbing, and Interpol chief Meng Hongwei have also been forcibly disappeared after running afoul of the authorities. After fleeing China or being released from detention, some former detainees recanted statements they were forced to make on camera.
In contrast to the IOC’s response to Peng’s case, the WTA has repeatedly expressed concerns about Peng’s health and safety, called for an investigation into her complaint, and said it is prepared to pull tournaments out of China if it does not get an appropriate response. Reacting to the online videos of Peng and the IOC’s call, the WTA said “they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.” World tennis champions including Novak Djokovic, Martina Navratilova, Naomi Osaka, and Serena Williams have also voiced concern about Peng’s safety.