The IOC says Peng Shuai is safe. Experts say the IOC has become a vehicle for Chinese propaganda
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Experts say IOC president Thomas Bach's call with Peng Shuai is more propaganda than evidence of Peng's safety.
The International Olympic Committee's attempt to assure the world that Peng Shuai is safe was not only insufficient evidence of her well-being, it was, according to experts and activists, a "harmful," "disturbing" and "active" amplification of Chinese propaganda, one that made the IOC "complicit" in China's silencing of Peng's sexual assault allegations.

The IOC, in a Sunday statement, described a video call between Peng and IOC president Thomas Bach. It represented Peng's first verified communication with the Western world since she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese Communist Party vice premier, of coercing her into sex. And it proved that Peng is alive.

But the call, said Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, appeared "highly orchestrated" and "staged." In fact, it fell in line with a pattern: The Chinese government, Wang and others said, has a long history of silencing high-profile dissenters and "erasing inconvenient truths," then forcing the oppressed to appear on video to recant allegations, admit to crimes or tell the public that they are safe and well.

"Given the context," Wang said of Sunday's IOC call, "it's highly unlikely this is done out of Peng Shuai's free will."

The details released by the IOC "don't mean that she's not in detention," said Zumretay Arkin, a Uyghur human rights activist. "It doesn't mean that she was not coerced to do this."

In this case, experts suspect the Chinese government essentially used the IOC as its mouthpiece, its platform to credibly communicate with the world. Wang said it's "very likely" that the call was arranged by the Chinese government — or at least, she said, "all the circumstances point to ... the involvement of the Chinese government."

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, mentioned the possibility that the IOC initiated plans. Either way, she accused the IOC and Chinese government of "collaborat[ing] to make a difficult, unpleasant story go away."

Henry Bushnell
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