The Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said she was safe and well in a video call on Sunday, the International Olympic Committee has said, amid growing international demands for assurances that she is free and not under threat.

Photos and videos of Peng at a tournament in Beijing earlier on Sunday had done little to dampen international concerns, following a nearly three-week public absence after she alleged that a former senior Chinese official sexually assaulted her.

In a statement, the IOC said that at the start of the 30-minute call with its president Thomas Bach, Peng had thanked the IOC for its concern about her wellbeing.

"She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," it said in a statement.

'that is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now.

Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

"I'm expecting only one thing : that she speaks," France ’ s Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television, adding that there could be unspecified diplomatic consequences if China did not clear up the situation.

Peng smiles as she signs large-sized tennis balls at the opening ceremony of Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Final in Beijing on Sunday

The United States and Britain had also called for China to provide proof of Peng ’ s whereabouts.

The concern over Peng came as global rights groups and others have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February over China's human rights record.

Peng, a former doubles world No 1, has not been seen or heard from publicly since she accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who is now in his 70s, on 2 November of sexual assault.

Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on her allegation.

Videos posted by Hu and a Global Times reporter showed Peng (second left) smiling, waving and signing autographs for children.

Peng's social media post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-backed Global Times, posted a 25-second video on Twitter on Sunday that showed her smiling, waving and autographing giant tennis balls for children at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals tournament.

The Global Times is published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party.

The tennis event's official WeChat page shows photos of her at the tournament.

Peng Shuai (right) is seen having dinner with her friends at a restaurant in this screen grab of a video in a Twitter post

Seven people including Peng were at the Sichuanese restaurant, said the manager, Zhou Hongmei, adding that they ate in a private room and were joined by the restaurant's owner.

I think they mostly chatted. ” The Women's Tennis Association ( WTA ), which has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, said the photos and video were "insufficient" and did not address the WTA ’ s concerns, a spokesperson for the group told Reuters by email.

last week, the state broadcaster cgtn on wednesday released what it said was an email peng sent to the head of the wta.

WTA chair Steve Simon said he had a hard time believing that Peng herself had written the email.

Peng Shuai (second left) showed up at the opening ceremony of a teenager tennis match final in Beijing on Sunday morning

The call – with Bach, the athletes' commission chair, Emma Terho, and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice-president of the Chinese Tennis Association – appears to be Peng ’ s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on 2 November.

Terho and Li were also invited.

The claims, made on Chinese social media site Weibo, were quickly deleted from the platform.

hu said the footage was taken on sunday.

Peng Shuai, 35, a Chinese tennis star, has not been seen since November 2 when she posted on social media accusing a senior Communist official of sexual abuse

A further clip of Peng signing tennis balls for children as "a way of inspiring more kids to play tennis" emerged from other state media outlets.

It follows previous footage released by Hu showing the 35-year-old eating at a Beijing restaurant, purportedly on Saturday night.

on friday, photos of a smiling peng emerged on a chinese state-affiliated twitter account, but their authenticity also could not be verified.

the authenticity of the four undated photographs were posted by the twitter account @ shenshiwei, labelled "chinese state-affiliated media" by the social network.

Seven people including Peng were at the Sichuanese restaurant, said the manager, Zhou Hongmei, adding that they ate in a private room and were joined by the restaurant's owner

But without any sign of Peng being able to speak freely or the WTA being able to contact her, the images were largely dismissed.

Responding to earlier footage, Steve Simon, the chair and CEO of the WTA, said : “ 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.

"This video alone is insufficient.

As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai's health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.

Ding posted images of Peng apparently visiting a restaurant in Beijing on Saturday night

I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

Hu is one of the only Chinese state voices to have publicly spoken on Peng, but he kept his comments to English-language posts on Twitter and does not mention any specifics.

she will show up in public and participate in some activities soon,"

Britain's Foreign Office has said it was "extremely concerned" and urged China to provide “ verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts ”.

Photographs posted online by a reporter working with CGTN, the international wing of China's state broadcaster, purportedly show the 35-year-old tennis ace posing but cannot be verified

The 37-second video posted appears to show Peng standing in a row of people being introduced to the audience.

She waves, smiling, and acknowledges applause.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had said President Joe Biden's administration wanted China to 'provide independent, verifiable proof' of Peng's whereabouts and expressed 'deep concern' about the former world top-ranked doubles player.

The United Nations insisted on a fully transparent investigation into the claims made by Peng against Communist Party grandee Zhang Gaoli- the first time China's # MeToo movement has touched the highest echelons of the country's politics.

Peng Shuai signs large-sized tennis balls at the opening ceremony of Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Final in Beijing Sunday

It followed an announcement on Saturday by the editor of a party newspaper on Twitter, which can't be seen by most internet users in China, that the Olympian would "show up in public" soon.

"It would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing," Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters in Geneva.

“ We are calling for an investigation with full transparency into her allegation of sexual assault. ” Hu wrote in English on Twitter that the restaurant video shows "Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant.

Peng has not been seen publicly since alleging earlier this month that Zhang had "forced" her into sex during an on-off relationship spanning several years.

Fears mount for Peng Shuai, once ranked as the top female double's player in the world, who has not been seen since accusing the country's former vice premier of rape on November 2

After the pictures emerged, Hu tweeted in English : "In the past few days, she stayed in her own home freely and she didn't want to be disturbed.

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