Peng Shuai: WTA announces immediate suspension of tournaments in China over concerns for tennis players

In a statement released on Wednesday, Simon said the decision was based on lack of transparency by Chinese officials tracking tennis players Peng Shuai’s accusations sexually assaulted a top Chinese government official.

“In good conscience, I do not see how it is possible to ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to socialize freely and appears to have been pressured to refute allegations of assault. her sexuality,” said Simon.

“Given the current situation, I am also very worried about the risks that all our players and staff may face if we hold events in China in 2022.”

One of China’s most popular sports stars, Peng has publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex at his home, according to a screenshot of a social media post. The association was deleted on 11/2.

Following the allegation, Peng disappeared from public view, prompting some fellow tennis players to express concern on social media, using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

On November 21, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympic athlete Peng, attended by a Chinese sports official and an IOC official.

During the call, Peng appeared to be “doing well” and “comfortable”, saying she “wants to have her privacy respected,” the statement said. The IOC did not explain how to hold a video call with Peng and has not made the video public.

Longtime IOC member Dick Pound said the “unanimous conclusion” of those on the call with Peng was that she was fine.

But the European Union on Tuesday said it wants China to present “verifiable evidence” that Peng is safe and to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into its sexual assault allegations. Miss.

Simon said the WTA recognized it when Peng released her statement in November that “her message must be heard and taken seriously. WTA players, not to mention women around the world. , equally deserving.”

Simon said: “From that point on, Peng Shuai has proven how important it is to speak up, especially when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when it comes to those involved. power”. “As Peng said in her post,” whether it’s like an egg hitting a rock, or if I’m like a moth rushing into a fire, inviting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you. . “She knew the dangers she would face, but she made it public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.”

In the statement, Simon went on to explain that he “seriously doubts that she is free, safe and free from censorship, coercion and intimidation.”

“The WTA has been clear about what is needed here, and we reiterate our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s alleged sexual assault. “, he said.

Steve Simon speaks during a press conference at Singapore Sports Hub in 2018.

“None of this is acceptable nor is it acceptable. If the powerful can suppress women’s voices and sweep sexual assault allegations under the rug, then the The institution where the WTA was founded – equality for women – is going to be a huge failure. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s charges against Zhang – who has faded from public life since retiring in 2018 – and there is no indication that an investigation is underway. conduct. It remains unclear whether Peng will report his allegations to the police.

Late last month, China’s foreign ministry said the government hoped “malicious speculations” regarding Ms. Peng’s happiness and whereabouts would stop, adding that her case should not be politically charged. chemotherapy.

On Wednesday, the International Tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King applauded the WTA’s decision “for its strong stance on the protection of human rights in China and around the world.”

Jean said in a statement: “The WTA has chosen to stand on the right side of history in protecting the rights of our players.

There have been no WTA events in China in the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WTA has yet to announce a 2022 event schedule, but on average professional tennis tournaments hold about 10 tournaments a year in China, including the season-ending WTA Finals.

“I am very pleased with the huge amount of international support the WTA has received for its stance on this issue,” said Simon. “To protect Peng and many other women around the world, it’s more urgent than ever for everyone to speak up. WTA will do everything it can to protect its players. As we do as we do, the WTA will do everything it can to protect its players. So, I hope leaders around the world will continue to speak out so that justice can be done for Peng, and all women, regardless of the financial divide.

“I very much regret that it has come to this point. The tennis community in China and Hong Kong is full of great people with whom we have worked for many years. They should be proud of their achievements, their filial piety. However, unless China takes the steps we have requested, we cannot put our players and staff at risk by hosting events in China. China’s leaders have left the WTA with no other choice. I still hope that our pleas will be heard and that the Chinese authorities will take steps to resolve it. solve this problem legally.”


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