After two weeks without news from tennis champion Peng Shuai, who accused the former deputy prime minister of coercing her into sex in early November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was the first foreign organization to obtain proof that Peng Shuai is “safe and sound at his home in Beijing,” the Lausanne-based body stressed on Sunday.
The IOC therefore responds “in part” to the concern around the 35-year-old player born in the world of tennis to flare up in a few days until the United Nations and the White House, observes Carole Gomez, research director at the ‘Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).
Politics will invite themselves to the Beijing Olympics
“But the emptiness of its press release poses a problem. By not giving any information on the merits of the case, the IOC is playing Beijing’s game and putting itself in an explosive situation”, promising a “fully political” Winter Games, warns the researcher.
And from Western media to NGOs, critics were quick to rain against the Olympic body, accused of “complicity” with the Chinese authorities to muzzle the words of Peng Shuai, hence the emergence of a Chinese #metoo.
IOC Now Playing an Active Role in the Chinese Government’s Enforced Disappearance, Coercion and Propaganda Machine
Yaqiu Wang, China Specialist at Human Rights Watch
The IOC, used to behind-the-scenes maneuvers
For Alkan Akad of Amnesty International, the organization “is entering dangerous waters”, and should “be extremely careful not to contribute to the laundering of a possible violation of human rights”.
Basically, the “discreet diplomacy” claimed since last Thursday by the IOC, without publicly challenging China, is however consistent with its way of acting behind the scenes when athletes appear threatened.
No hold on China
But the case of Peng Shuai is different: “The IOC has no control over what happens at the police level, no way to get her out of China”, summarizes Jean-Loup Chappelet, specialist in Olympism at the University of Lausanne.
The unease caused by his intervention on Sunday is therefore less due to the result obtained – no one did better – than to the lack of a clear position on the accusations of Peng Shuai, less than three months before the Winter Games (4- February 22, 2022) surrounded by calls for a diplomatic boycott.
“It is the responsibility of the Chinese authorities to ensure a transparent investigation into the serious allegations of sexual assault made by Peng Shuai,” a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights maintained in Geneva on Tuesday. formula absent from the speech of the IOC.
Can the IOC remain “neutral”?
Because the supreme sports body “cannot afford to offend the Chinese” while it must still “carry out the Olympics”, thus guaranteeing the movement of thousands of people and the free work of journalists in Beijing, recalls Simon Chadwick, director of the Eurasian Sports Center at EM Lyon.
Questioned for months on its level of ethical requirement, the IOC certainly defends itself from being “a world super government”, capable of “settling questions for which neither the UN Security Council, nor the G7, nor the G20 have no solution “.
But in a period of “ideological polarization”, where Western human rights indignation exasperates China and its allies, who see it as interference, the “neutrality” claimed by the IOC is increasingly untenable. , underlines Simon Chadwick: “No organization is strong enough to navigate” between these opposing poles.