《TAIPEI TIMES》 French minister cautions China over tennis star
An image grab from a video appears to show Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, left, signing large-sized tennis balls at the opening ceremony of the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals in Beijing yesterday. Photo: Reuters via Twitter @qingqoingparis
OUT OF REACH: The French foreign minister warned of diplomatic consequences for China, while the WTA said a video of Peng was insufficient to allay concerns
/ Reuters, PARIS and BEIJING
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian yesterday called on Chinese authorities to let tennis star Peng Shuai （彭帥） speak publicly to clarify what is happening to her, warning that there could be diplomatic consequences for Beijing if she does not.
“I’m expecting only one thing: that she speaks,” Le Drian told LCI television, adding that there could be diplomatic consequences if China does not clear up the situation.
Peng, whose whereabouts have been a matter of international concern for weeks, yesterday attended a tennis tournament in Beijing, according to official photographs published by the tournament organized by China Open.
Photos published on the event’s official WeChat account show Peng among guests at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals, dressed in a dark blue jacket and white trousers.
The former doubles world No. 1 had not been seen or heard from publicly since she on Nov. 2 said on Chinese social media that former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli （張高麗） had coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on her allegation. Peng’s social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s heavily censored Internet.
World tennis bodies have expressed concern, with the Women’s Tennis Association （WTA） threatening to pull tournaments out of China. The US and the UK have called for evidence of Peng’s whereabouts and safety.
The photos and video footage of Peng that emerged yesterday remain “insufficient” and do not address the WTA’s concerns, a spokesperson for the group said.
The US and British embassies in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment on her reappearance.
The issue of Peng’s safety and whereabouts has emerged as China prepares to host the Beijing Winter Olympics in February amid calls from global rights groups and others for a boycott over its human rights record.
A photo of Peng at the Fila tournament was also posted on Twitter by Ding Li （丁力）, a senior executive of Global D-Sports, a company that corporate information app Tianyancha （天眼查） said organizes sports events and manages athletes.
Ding, who said he was a long-time friend of Peng, said her phone is always switched on, so the WTA could just call her.
WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon told Time magazine last week that the organization had tried to contact her through various means.
On Saturday night, Peng visited a popular restaurant in downtown Beijing for a meal Ding attended, according to photos he posted on Twitter.
Hu Xijin （胡錫進）, editor-in-chief of the state-backed Global Times, reposted a video of the outing, which a restaurant manager confirmed yesterday.
Seven people, including Peng, were at the Sichuan restaurant, said the manager, Zhou Hongmei, adding that they ate in a private room and were joined by the restaurant’s owner.