The Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who had a sexual relationship with former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli beginning 10 years ago, disappeared for several days and only showed up for photos at events arranged by Chinese officials, making the outside world even more worried about her safety. 

Marc Ventouillac, a reporter for Peng Shuai’s recent interview with French sports media L’Equipe, said on Tuesday, Feb. 8, that the carefully controlled conversation could not explain whether she could speak or move freely and revealed the purpose of the interview granted by Chinese officials.

“It’s a part of communication, propaganda, from the Chinese Olympic Committee,” Ventouillac said.

As the Associated Press reported, Vantovillac said he understood China’s intentions. By granting the interview during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Chinese officials wanted to calm the controversy so as not to overshadow the games.

Chinese officials wanted the interview to tell everyone, “there is no problem with Peng Shuai. See?.” He argued that it was important for the Chinese Olympic Committee, the Chinese Communist Party, and many in China to show that Peng’s incident does not exist.

Ventouillac said, according to the Washington Post, “She answered our questions without hesitating—with, I imagine, answers that she knew. Shuai knew what she was going to say,” then, “But you can’t know whether it was formatted or something. She said what we expected her to say.”

Ventouillac said he thought Peng knew what she would say, but you don’t know if it was institutionalized.

Ventouillac added that Peng appeared to get more anxious and careful when asked about her post about sexual relations with retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. The team also said that one of the interview goals was to let Peng know that “she is not alone” and that the world cares about her.

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