Women’s Tennis Association shelves all tournaments in China amid Peng concerns

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The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all tournaments in China amid concerns for the welfare of Chinese player, Peng Shuai. According to an AFP report, Steve Simon from the WTA says the tournaments, including those planned for Hong Kong, cannot go ahead while Peng is unable to speak freely. The Winter Olympics are due to take place in Beijing in February.

“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault.”

Peng disappeared for 2 weeks after alleging she was sexually abused for years by Zhang Gaoli, a former senior official in the governing Chinese Communist Party. The allegation, which appeared on social media, has now been deleted. Since then, Peng has re-appeared in public and has had a video call with Thomas Bach from the International Olympic Committee. However, Simon does not believe she was speaking freely on that call, during which she insisted she was safe and well and wanted her privacy respected.

“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation. None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback.”

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Simon has welcomed the support of the European Union, the United Nations, the US, and the UK, all of whom have called on the Chinese government for more proof that Peng is not being censored or intimidated. Meanwhile, according to the AFP report, the International Tennis Federation says it understands why the WTA had to take the stance it has.

“The WTA has stood firm and true to its values from the start and we understand their decision. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”


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