Peng Shuai: WTA announces immediate suspension of tournaments in China amid concern for tennis player

In a declaration launched Wednesday, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon stated the choice was based upon the “unacceptable” action of Chinese authorities in the #MeToo scandal, consisting of hurrying to censor Peng’s accusations and disregarding require a complete and transparent examination.

“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,” Simon stated.

“Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

Among China’s many identifiable sports stars, Peng openly implicated previous Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pushing her into sex at his house 3 years back in a since-deleted social networks post dated November 2.

Peng was right away stifled by blanket censorship and vanished from public view for more than 2 weeks, triggering the ladies tennis’ world to require responses regarding her location — along with a complete examination into her accusations versus Zhang.

In the middle of growing worldwide protest, people working for Chinese government-controlled media and the state sports system launched a variety of “proof of life” pictures and videos of Peng.

“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation,” Simon stated.

“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. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

Peng Shuai serves to Hibino Nao during their women's singles first-round match at the Australian Open in 2020.
The WTA’s statement makes great on a risk Simon made on November 18, when he informed CNN he wanted to lose numerous countless dollars worth of organization in China if Peng was not completely represented and her accusations were not appropriately examined.

“I can only imagine the range of emotions, and feelings, that are likely going through Peng right now. We hope that she feels that none of this is her fault, we are very proud of her,” Simon stated in an interview with CNN Wednesday, following the latest WTA declaration.

“But this is something we can’t walk away from. If we walk away from this, we’re basically telling the world, that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK,” he stated. “It’s something that we simply cannot allow to happen, and it’s not where we stand for as an organization.”

WTA’s choice to take out of China was praised Wednesday by some greatest names in ladies’s tennis, a lot of whom have actually formerly voiced issues for Peng’s security and location on Twitter, utilizing the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

International Tennis Hall of Popularity Billie Jean King applauded the WTA choice “for taking a strong stand on defending human rights in China and around the world.”

“The WTA has chosen to be on the right side of history in defending the rights of our players,” Jean stated in a declaration, including: “This is yet another reason why women’s tennis is the leader in women’s sports.”

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam winner, likewise weighed in keeping in mind the evident silence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ahead of next year’s Beijing Winter season Olympics.

“This is a brave stance by Steve Simon and the WTA where we put principle above $ and stand up for women everywhere and particularly for Peng Shuai. Now – what say you, @IOC ?!? #IOC – so far I can barely hear you!!!” stated Navratilova in a declaration published online.

Who is Zhang Gaoli? The man at the center of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's #MeToo allegation

On November 21, the IOC stated in a declaration that its president, Thomas Bach, held a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympian Peng, along with a Chinese sports authorities and an extra IOC agent.

The declaration stated that, throughout the call, Peng seemed “doing fine” and was “relaxed,” stating she “would like to have her privacy respected.” The IOC did not discuss how the video call with Peng was arranged and has actually not made the video openly readily available.

Long time IOC member Penis Pound stated the “unanimous conclusion” by those on a call with Peng is that she is great, including he has actually been “puzzled” by the global response to the call.

Chinese authorities have actually not acknowledged Peng’s accusations versus Zhang — who has actually faded from public life given that his retirement in 2018 — and there is no indicator an examination is underway. It stays uncertain if Peng has actually reported her accusations to the authorities.

Late last month, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the federal government hoped “malicious speculation” concerning Peng’s wellness and location would stop, including that her case needs to not be politicized.

Chinese authorities have actually not reacted to the WTA’s choice to take out of China. WTA’s declaration is not published on its main account on Weibo, China’s greatly censored variation of Twitter.

The WTA’s account — which has more than 400,000 fans — is still up on Weibo, however it has actually been obstructed from search engine result, though some posts stay available.

Some Weibo users voiced assistance for the WTA’s choice in remarks under the association’s old posts in the early hours of Thursday, however they were quickly censored.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has finally appeared in public. But here's why the worries aren't going away

On Twitter, which is obstructed in mainland China, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, implicated the WTA of utilizing Peng to assault China.

“WTA is coercing Peng Shuai to support the West’s attack on Chinese system. They are depriving Peng Shuai’s freedom of expression, demanding that her description of her current situation must meet their expectation,” Hu tweeted.

Tennis’ appeal in China has actually proliferated over the previous couple of years, with numerous Chinese gamers burglarizing the worldwide rankings. The ladies’s video game, in specific, is a huge market, thanks in part to the success of Chinese tennis star Li Na, who in 2011 ended up being Asia’s very first grand slam songs tennis champ when she won the French Open, followed by a 2nd significant title at the 2014 Australian Open.

In the last few years, the WTA has actually made a huge push into China. In 2019, the WTA Finals transferred from Singapore to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, participating in a prolonged ten-year offer.

In an interview with the New York City Times from 2018, Simon explained the plan with authorities in Shenzhen, which supposedly consists of the building of a brand-new multimillion dollar tennis arena, as a “huge opportunity” for ladies’s tennis in China.

“When you factor in the commitment to prize money and the commitments to the WTA, and you factor in the stadium build and real-estate elements, it’s over a $1 billion dollar commitment they have made to the WTA Finals and the WTA,” Simon was estimated as stating.

There have actually been no WTA occasions in China for the previous 2 years due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WTA has yet to launch the 2022 occasion calendar, however typically the expert tennis trip has actually held about 10 competitions each year in China, consisting of the season-ending WTA Finals.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.