Missing Peng Shuai appears in video call - but doubts remain over welfare

Doubts remain over Peng Shuai's welfare, ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports from Beijing

With growing concern over the safety of tennis star Peng Shuai, Chinese state media have released a video of her at the opening ceremony of an event in Beijing.

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee confirmed they've spoken to the three-time Olympian over a 30-minute video call - but it's not clear if she was able to speak freely or whether she was under state supervision.

The concerns were sparked after she disappeared from public view following sex abuse allegations she made against a former top Chinese state official, which were swiftly deleted from social media.

As pressure mounts on China to prove the tennis star is safe and well, Chinese state media released several videos over the weekend purporting to show Peng in public.

Images uploaded by China Open on Weibo and shared on Twitter by Chinese state media appear to show Peng at a tennis event in Beijing. Credit: Weibo/ChinaOpen

A video appearing to show Peng in public was published early on Sunday by Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

Alongside the video, Hu Xijin wrote: "Peng Shuai showed up at the opening ceremony of a teenager tennis match final in Beijing on Sunday morning."

Another video posted by Global Times Chief Reporter Qingqing Chen on Twitter also appears to show Peng at the Junior Tennis event.

On Saturday, video emerged on Chinese state media which appeared to show the 35-year-old in a restaurant.

Alongside the clips posted on Twitter, Hu Xijin wrote: "I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time."

Earlier, Hu wrote he had "confirmed through my own sources" that photos released on Friday of Peng in her home were "current", adding: "In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed. She will show up in public and participate in some activities soon."

However, serious doubts still remain as neither the videos nor the images have been independently verified.

Following the release of Saturday's video, Steve Simon, WTA Chairman & CEO said in a statement that the "video alone is insufficient."

He wrote: “I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing. While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference".

Also on Saturday, Wimbledon said it was "united with the rest of tennis in the need to understand that Peng Shuai is safe."

It wrote in a statement that it has "been working in support of the WTA's efforts to establish her safety."

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the government remained “extremely concerned” and were following the case closely.

It comes amid calls for ministers and officials should boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics over the case.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that the UK should “stand up” and make it clear to China that human rights abuses were unacceptable.

But he said: “One of the big problems we’ve got is that we have become so dependent on China for so many things.”

And that therefore the government was “slightly edgy about upsetting them.”