Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has repeated her denial that she said she was sexually assaulted by a top Chinese official, in her first interview with independent media, as the International Olympic Committee said that its president had met her for dinner on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters from French sport paper L’Equipe, in an hour-long face-to-face interview, Peng said: “I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way.”
In November last year, Peng wrote a long post on Chinese social media site Weibo. In it she alleged that Zhang Gaoli, a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official, had “forced” her into sex during a years-long relationship.
The post was removed in less than half an hour and Peng’s account was censored. She was not heard of for two weeks, until Chinese state media released an email they said she had written, in which she said she was “resting at home”. Subsequently Peng made appearances at events in Beijing and Shanghai.
Many remained unconvinced that she was really free and the Women’s Tennis Association announced that it would suspend all tennis tournaments in China.
Peng told L’Equipe that she “never disappeared” and she erased her Weibo post herself because she “wanted to”.
“There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post,” she said. “I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore.”
She also said that her life had been “nothing special” since she wrote the Weibo post.
Asked whether she was in trouble with the Chinese authorities, Peng said “feelings, sports and politics are three very distinct things. My love life problems, my personal life, must not be mingled with sports and politics.”
The IOC also confirmed in a statement that Peng had met its president Thomas Bach for dinner, where Peng talked of her intention to travel to Europe. The statement did not mention the allegations of sexual assault.