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Peng Shuai attends Winter Olympics in Beijing, but concerns over her safety linger 

Peng Shuai was spotted at the Winter Olympics in Beijing
Peng Shuai was spotted at the Winter Olympics in Beijing

Peng Shuai has made yet another public appearance, this time at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese athlete was in attendance at the women's Big Air Freestyle Skiing event, where she watched compatriot Eileen Gu win the first ever Olympic gold medal in the category.

Peng made waves in the tennis world in November 2021 after accusing former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. The two-time doubles Grand Slam champion allegedly "disappeared" soon after, prompting cries of outrage from fans and tennis players alike demanding her safe return.

The 36-year-old returned to the public eye soon after, but hasn't left China since. She has also walked back her sexual assault allegations, claiming it was a "misunderstanding" that has been blown out of proportion.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai was on hand to watch China's Eileen Gu win #gold in the Big Air competition in #Beijing2022. Peng could be seen in the stands wearing a black knit hat with the Olympic rings on them and a black coat with the Chinese flag reut.rs/3gvXNdj https://t.co/D2hVSfrV3e

All of this, including her latest public appearance, has failed to convince those who rallied to her aid in the first place. Users on social media, including prominent human rights activists, are convinced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is operating behind the scenes by using Peng as a puppet during the Games.

One among them was Hong Kong activist Joey Siu, who referred to the timely "grand appearance" as a staged attempt by the CCP. Siu was of the opinion that the Chinese tennis player was not as free as the authorities wanted people to think.

"If this is not a CCP-staged forcible appearance, what is? Has Peng Shuai always been a fan of winter sports?" Siu wrote on Twitter. "How often do you see a tennis player make such a high-profile grand appearance at a Winter Olympics games? Peng Shuai is clearly not free."
If this is not a CCP-staged forcible appearance, what is?Has Peng Shuai always been a fan of winter sports? How often do you see a tennis player make such a high-profile grand appearance at a Winter Olympics games? Peng Shuai is clearly not free.#FreePengShuai twitter.com/reuters/status…
This whole thread: Truly a spectacle of political propaganda weaving IOC, Gu, and Peng together for an explicit presentation of in-your-face Chinese nationalism. twitter.com/reuters/status…

Eileen Gu herself was asked what she thought of Peng Shuai's situation after her gold medal win. The freestyle skier dodged the question by saying she was glad Peng was safe and "doing her things again."

The moment was brought up by users on Twitter to highlight how the narrative was being controlled by the CCP.

"Eileen Gu just absolutely sidestepped a question on what she thought of the Peng situation; she said she was glad to see "Peng happy and healthy and doing her thing." Impossible question for her, and strikes at the heart of the contrast here," Bruce Arthur, columnist for the Toronto Star, tweeted.
Eileen Gu just absolutely sidestepped a question on what she thought of the Peng situation; she said she was glad to see Peng "happy and healthy and doing her thing." Impossible question for her, and strikes at the heart of the contrast here. twitter.com/Reuters/status…
So now the @iocmedia & CCP have made Eileen Gu complicit in this nightmare. Way to go everyone involved. #FreePengShuai #BoycottBeijingOlympics #BoycottBeijing2022 twitter.com/reuters/status…

Tennis fans in disbelief after Peng Shuai's latest interview with L'Equipe

Tennis fans were not thrilled about Peng Shuai's "forced" interview with L'equipe
Tennis fans were not thrilled about Peng Shuai's "forced" interview with L'equipe

A day earlier, Peng Shuai gave an interview with French media outlet L'Equipe where she reiterated her previous statements regarding her denial of sexual assault allegations. It was her first interview with independent western media after the chain of events that unfolded starting in November.

Winter Olympics: Peng Shuai gives 'forced confession' in interview. Her Chinese security services minders can be seen in the reflection of the mirror. dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsne…

However, it was a "controlled interview" -- meaning that a Chinese government official was present in the room along with the journalists. Naturally, the move was not viewed favorably by Twitter users.

Former tennis player Patrick McEnroe reckoned the interview was "very upsetting" to read because of the forced nature of it.

"Peng Shuai breaks silence from Beijing. Very very upsetting," McEnroe tweeted.
Peng Shuai breaks silence from Beijing. Very very upsetting. smh.com.au/sport/tennis/w…
It's been arguably 50 or 60 years since we've see totalitarianism this powerful, and people forget. The point isn't to make you believe Peng Shuai wasn't raped. The point is for you to see that they got her to pretend that she wasn't. twitter.com/AP/status/1490…

Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn also expressed the same sentiment. She further blamed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for "going along with" the CCP's move.

"The Chinese Communist Party is using Peng Shuai as a puppet, and the International Olympic Committee is going along with it. Not only did a top CCP official sexually assault and disappear her, but now they’re forcing her to deny anything happened," Blackburn tweeted.
The Chinese Communist Party is using Peng Shuai as a puppet, and the International Olympic Committee is going along with it. Not only did a top CCP official sexually assault and disappear her, but now they’re forcing her to deny anything happened.

The biggest criticism came from contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. Having endured the harsh conditions enforced by the CCP on its detractors personally, the documentarian opined that Peng has become another person altogether.

Speaking in an interview with the Guardian even before Peng's interview came out, Weiwei remarked ominously that she would be forced to "behave exactly according to the party" and that she had "no spirit anymore."

"She is in the very safe hands of the Communist party. They will make sure she behaves exactly according to the party. She may already be thinking she made a mistake in exposing this very deep, dark relationship," Weiwei said. "She has put her family, friends, career at stake. There is no spirit for her any more. She has become another person, and whatever she tells you is not true."
Artist Ai Weiwei in The Guardian today speaking about Peng Shuai. Chilling. https://t.co/i6HSzr8mZk

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Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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