The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all tournaments in mainland China and Hong Kong, fearing the treatment of Beijing tennis star Peng Shuai.
“Concisely, I don’t know how to ask athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is unable to communicate freely and is under pressure to contradict allegations of sexual assault.” Steve Simon, Chairman and CEO of the WTA, said: Statement of December 1st.
The happiness of Peng, a three-time Olympic athlete and former world number one doubles player, has become an international concern after making a sexual claim to former Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli earlier last month. several weeks.
Her post was cleared within 30 minutes from her personal account on the frozen Chinese social media Weibo. The discussion between Peng and her allegations has also been rigorously censored online in the country.
Since the disappearance of Peng, the WTA has been at the forefront of a growing pressure campaign in Beijing to provide verifiable evidence of the safety of tennis players. Over the past few weeks, tennis players, governments, and advocacy groups have warned of this issue and handed over the PR swamp to Beijing within two months of the Beijing Winter Olympics. This is an event that has already been scrutinized for the rampant human rights abuses of communist China.
On November 21, Peng appeared in a 30-minute video call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), telling officials that he was “safe and energetic” and “would like to respect his privacy.” A few days ago, Chinese national media also released a photo of Peng and a screenshot of an email allegedly sent by the player she returned to the complaint. But such claims only raise further questions about her safety. Others were also unsatisfied with the IOC’s video call with Peng, saying that the body did not do enough to confirm her welfare.
“We now know where Peng is, but we are seriously skeptical that she is free and safe and not subject to censorship, coercion or intimidation,” Simon said.
Simon, who received full support from the association’s board of directors regarding the decision, said he regrets having to take a step. But “Chinese leaders have left the WTA with no choice,” he said.
“”[U]We cannot endanger players or staff by hosting an event in China unless China takes the steps we have requested, “says Simon. He continued to expect “our plea to be heard,” adding that Chinese authorities would launch a “complete and transparent investigation.”
Senator Marsha Blackburn (Republican) thanked the organization for “having the courage to confront the Chinese Communist Party,” and many US lawmakers helped with the WTA announcement.
“From the disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai to the expulsion of Muslim Uighurs into slave labor, the Chinese Communist Party does not respect humanity,” she wrote on Twitter.
Many prominent tennis players also praised the WTA’s stance.
Billie Jean King, the founder of the WTA, said the organization “chosen to be on the right side of history.”
“This is another reason why women’s tennis is a leader in women’s sports,” she wrote on Twitter.
Martina Navratilova, who won the 18th Grand Slam, wrote in a Twitter post: “In a brave stance by Steve Simon and the WTA, he puts the principle above $ and supports women everywhere, especially Peng Shuai. “. Well-known coach and former player Darren Cahill praised the WTA for showing “incredible care, concern and leadership” in a tweet.
Former world number one Andy Roddick said the move “is proud to be on the track of tennis.”
“There are many organizations that can afford to do much more than the WTA,” he wrote in a tweet. “It’s much easier to do the right thing if there are no associated costs.”