The WTA is no longer organizing tournaments in China for the time being. The womens tennis union has decided that out of concern about the situation of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
35-year-old Peng, former world number 1 in doubles, accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse via the Chinese social medium Weibo in early November. The message then quickly disappeared from the internet and Peng was not heard for two weeks. After that, there were signs of life, but the concerns about Peng were not taken away with that.
“I dont see how to ask our tennis players to play in China if Peng is not allowed to communicate freely and is seemingly pressured to withdraw her sexual assault accusation,” says WTA chief executive Steve Simon.
“China not credible”
Simon contacted Peng via email, but her answers were “clearly influenced by others” according to the WTA official. A video call from IOC President Thomas Bach with Peng also did not reassure the WTA.
Last month, Steven Simon announced to boycott China if there is no clarification about Peng Shuai.
“Chinese officials have been given the opportunity to stop this censorship and prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or harassment,” said Simon. “Unfortunately, leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in a credible way.”
Two weeks ago, the WTA already announced its willingness to scrap tournaments in China and Hong Kong, should there be no clarity about Pengs situation. So now the union adds the act to the word, although the first major tournaments in China are normally only in September.
“The WTA has been clear. We reiterate our call for a complete and transparent investigation, without censorship, into the allegation of sexual abuse of Peng Shuai,” said Chairman Simon.
Pictures of Peng
Images of Peng have become available in recent weeks via channels connected to the Chinese state. But according to Amnesty International, among others, they do not yet prove that Peng can now move freely or speak freely.