It was the interview that many sports journalists wanted: a conversation with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai willing to speak for the first time to the Western press about her claim that a former Chinese Communist Party leader forced her to have sexsparking fears for his safety around the world.
Marc Ventouillacone of two journalists from the French sports daily L’Equipe who spoke with Peng in a restricted interview conducted with the consent of Chinese Olympic officials, says that he is not sure that she can say and do what she wants.
“It’s impossible to say,” he said in English. “This interview does not give proof that there is no problem with Peng Shuai”.
However, China‘s intentions seemed clear to him: by allowing the interview at a time when the Winter Olympics are taking place in Beijing, the Chinese authorities apparently want to put an end to the controversy so that it does not stain the big event.
“It is part of the communication, propaganda, of the Chinese Olympic Committee”Ventouillac told Associated Press on Tuesday, the day after L’Equipe published his exclusive interview.
“An interview with a large European newspaper allows them to say: ‘Ok, no problem with Peng Shuai. They see him? Journalists can ask all the questions they wanted’”.
The interview, along with a dinner that Peng had with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and her appearances at Olympic venues cast a deliberate and controlled light on the triple Olympic medalist and former doubles number one. On Tuesday, she and Bach attended the freestyle skiing final in which Chinese-American Eileen Gu won the gold medal.
Ostensibly, it is about answering the question that tennis players and fans from all over the world repeat on social networks: Where is Peng Shuai?
“I think it’s important for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the Communist Party and for a lot of people in China to try to show: ‘No, there is no issue with Peng Shuai.'”Ventouillac noted.
The professional women’s tennis tour said the interview “does not mitigate our concerns” about the allegations What did you do in November?
“Peng was bold in publicly denouncing that she suffered sexual assault at the hands of a senior Chinese government official”said the president of the WTA, steve simon, it’s a statement. “As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation of the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – in private – and discuss her situation.”
Ventouillac said that Peng “she seems to be healthy”. To get the interview, organized by the Chinese Olympic Committee through the IOC, L’Equipe accepted submit questions in advance and publish your answers verbatim, in the form of questions and answers. He was given half an hour, but Ventouillac said it lasted twice as long and they were able to ask as many questions as they wanted, beyond the “eight or 10” they submitted in advance.
“There was no censorship in the questions”he added.
An official from the Chinese Olympic Committee, who attended the interview, translated Peng’s remarks into Chinese. In Paris, the newspaper employed an interpreter to ensure the accuracy of the statements it published in French on Monday. It was Peng’s first interview with a non-Chinese media outlet since the indictment.
(With information from AP)
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