International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that his sports agency would support Peng Shuai if she asked for an investigation into her sexual assault claims allegedly perpetrated by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

According to AFP, IOC President Bach made the statement on Feb. 3, saying, “It is not only a sign of respect, it is a necessity, to respect her, to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life.

“This is what step by step we are trying to find out.

“If she wants to have an inquiry, of course, we would also support her in this. But it must be her decision. It’s her life; it’s her allegations. We have had the allegations, and we have heard the withdrawal.

“We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation and then we will know better also about her physical integrity and her mental state when we can finally meet in person.”

Bach also said that talking to Peng Shuai on video before is not a substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Yet Bach still did not state the specific date of the meeting.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has been in the international spotlight since she disappeared for nearly three weeks last November after accusing former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a social media post. She denied her allegations last December, but the international community is still concerned about Peng Shuai’s safety and well-being. 

After the incident, Thomas Bach himself had a video chat with Peng Shuai and said she was in “good condition,” but only provided a picture of the meeting and did not mention Peng Shaui’s sexual accusation. The IOC’s so-called “quiet diplomacy” was criticized by the international community. Their actions seem to whitewash the Chinese regime.

According to Chinese media Kanzhongguo, Bach’s latest statement also came as quite a surprise to the outside world. This is the first time he has made such a statement, saying that he respects Peng Shuai’s decision and that the IOC will support the investigation into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault claim if she wishes. However, some analysts believe this is a disguised admission from the IOC that Peng Shuai’s claim is valid. 

In response to Bach’s sudden change of tone, current affairs commentator Li Muyang from U.S.-based Chinese-language Kanzhongguo analyzes the case and gives out two possibilities. The first one is related to the CCP’s internal strife. He said that Xi Jinping wants to take the opportunity to crack down on Jiang Zemin’s faction—his main political opposing force within the Party, further clearing the obstacles on the way to his re-election for a third term in the 20th National Congress. The second is that Bach and Xi Jinping are collaborating on this. 

Li Mu Yang said it would be essential to keep an eye on Peng Shuai to see if she will return and re-accuse Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. If Peng Shuai does accuse Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault again, it will prove that Bach’s sudden change of tone was a chess move by Xi Jinping. In other words, Xi may have first arranged for Peng Shuai to speak out against Zhang Gaoli last November, then arranged for Bach to come forward and pretend to shout, and then for Peng Shuai to accuse Zhang Gaoli again. Xi could then investigate Zhang Gaoli with public support if it comes to that point, which will be considered a blow to the Jiang Zemin faction. 

Li Muyang said when Bach noted that the IOC would support Peng Shuai, the actual gun was handed over to Peng Shuai, and she could pull the trigger. 

Although Peng Shuai claims to be “free to act” and has shown up several times to prove her “freedom,” however, on every occasion that Peng Shuai appeared on a short video clip posted online, netizens found traces of the Party’s secret police monitoring her.

Li Muyang pointed out that currently, Peng Shuai has no chance of escaping even if she has the guts.

Li Muyang said, “That is to say, Peng Shuai has long been monitored. What she says, what she does, it has to follow the needs of the top. It is completely out of her own will. In this case, if Xi Jinping does not want to attack Zhang Gaoli, will Peng Shuai dare to come forward again to accuse him of sexual assault? Even if she has the guts, she will not have any chance.”

Li Muyang said that whichever way, Bach seems to be following the line of the CCP, specifically Xi Jinping. China has infiltrated the IOC, exerted its influence, and turned it into a Chinese department. 

So far, Zhang Gaoli has not responded publicly to Peng Shuai’s accusations since she posted them online. However, on Chinese New Year Eve, Chinese state-run Xinhua reported that Xi Jinping and other current leaders had paid tribute to “old comrades,” and Zhang Gaoli happened to be on the list.

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