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Peng situation may force IOC to take hard line with China, says Pound

Nov 19 (Reuters) – With concern over the protection of Chinese tennis participant Peng Shuai rising into a worldwide trigger, the International Olympic Committee might be pushed into taking a hard line with the 2022 Beijing Olympic hosts, senior IOC member Dick Pound informed Reuters.

Former doubles world primary Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since she stated on Chinese social media on Nov. 2 that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into intercourse and so they later had an on-off consensual relationship.

Such is the worldwide outcry over Peng’s security and whereabouts, Pound stated the situation might force the IOC to confront China over its human rights file.

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Although the outrage is unlikely to cease the Beijing Winter Games going forward in February, Pound wouldn’t fully rule it out.

“If that’s not resolved in a sensible way very soon it may spin out of control,” Pound, the IOC’s longest serving member, informed Reuters. “It may (force IOC into taking a harder line).

“Whether that escalates to a cessation of the Olympic Games I doubt it. But you by no means know.”

Neither Zhang or the Chinese government have commented on Peng’s allegation. The 35-year-old tennis player’s social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s heavily censored internet.

The governing body of women’s tennis (WTA) has called for an investigation and has threatened to pull tournaments worth tens of millions of dollars out of China.

Even though Peng is a three-time Olympian, the IOC has given no indication it is willing to take a similar stand and risk billions of dollars in television rights and sponsorships.

“I do not know whether or not we’re there but however I’m certain they (IOC government committee) are following this to see the place it’s going,” said Pound, a Canadian lawyer and former-Olympian.

“Action towards considered one of its personal residents for airing a grievance about considered one of their larger ups – that is more durable for them (China) to deal with than the same old ‘it is a home matter now get misplaced’.”

Thus far the IOC has declined to comment on Peng’s matter, saying it believed “quiet diplomacy” offered the best opportunity for a solution.

Pound conceded that China does not respond well to threats and negotiating with sport and government officials requires nuance.

“That can be a little bit more durable line than the IOC would usually be taking,” said Pound, when asked if the IOC might demand a meeting with Peng.

“Where we now have generated some change of perspective prior to now we have stated, “listen this is all out there in the public how do we respond. We can’t ignore it.

“That prior to now has produced some motion.

“My guess is it will be that kind of line rather than jabbing them in the chest and saying ‘do this or the world will end’.

“If you are China you may say, ‘okay it is going to be disappointing (dropping the Olympics) however it is going to be extra disappointing for the remainder of the world than it is going to be for us’.”

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Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; modifying by Pritha Sarkar

Tennis - Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020  China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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