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Olympics-Peng situation may force IOC to take hard line with China, says Pound By Reuters

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¬© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tennis – WTA Mandatory – Madrid Open – Madrid, Spain – May 6, 2018 China’s Peng Shuai in motion towards Spain’s Garbine Muguruza throughout their spherical of 64 match REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

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By Steve Keating

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

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

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

Although the outrage is unlikely to cease the Beijing Winter Games going forward in February, Pound wouldn’t utterly 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, instructed 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 positive 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 increased ups – that is tougher for them (China) to deal with than the standard ‘this can be 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 could be a bit tougher line than the IOC would usually be taking,” said Pound, when asked if the IOC might demand a meeting with Peng.

“Where we’ve generated some change of angle previously we have mentioned, “listen this is all out there in the public how do we respond. We can’t ignore it.

“That previously 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’ll be able to say, ‘okay will probably be disappointing (shedding the Olympics) however will probably be extra disappointing for the remainder of the world than will probably be for us’.”

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