The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has faced criticism for speaking to Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai without calling for guarantees over her freedom, leading to accusations he was acting to protect the next Olympic hosts.
Peng, a Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, disappeared from public view for more than two weeks after she made sexual assault claims against former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli.
Her disappearance sparked widespread international concern with the United Nations and the White House both making statements.
On Sunday, less than three months before Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, the IOC said Bach had held a video call with Peng.
The IOC said in a statement Peng, 35, had "thanked the IOC for its concern about her wellbeing" and that she had assured Bach she was "safe and well".
The IOC released an image of the call taking place, showing a smiling Peng but its statement contained no appeal to the Chinese authorities.
"The emptiness of the statement poses a problem. By not giving any details about the basis of this affair, the IOC is playing Beijing's game and putting itself in an explosive situation," said Carole Gomez of the French-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS).
Peng's call with Bach did not allay the concerns of the WTA tennis federation and human rights groups accused him of "complicity" with the Chinese authorities.
"This is just disturbing on another level. The IOC is now actively playing a role in the Chinese government's enforced disappearance, coercion and propaganda machinery," Yaqiu Wang, a China specialist at Human Rights Watch, tweeted.
Alkan Akad, a China researcher at Amnesty International, said the IOC was "entering dangerous waters".
"They should be extremely careful not to participate in any whitewash of a possible violation of human rights.
"The call between the IOC and Peng Shuai is hardly convincing that Peng has full and genuine freedom of expression, liberty, security and movement," he said.