Women’s Tennis Association suspends tournaments in China following disappearance of player
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) suspended tournaments in China and Hong Kong on Wednesday following the disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai, who came forward with allegations of sexual assault against a top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official.
“I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” WTA Chairman Steve Simon wrote.
Peng posted a video online in early November accusing Zhang Gaoli, 40 years her senior, of forcing her to have sex three years ago.
Chinese state media released an email from a person claiming to be from Peng on Nov. 17, saying the allegations were false and she is safe.
Days later, the United Nations demanded proof of Peng’s wellbeing.
The following weekend, government-run media distributed photos and a video of Peng briefly reappearing in public.
The issue has been completely censored in China.
Simon wrote, “Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved… She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.”
Standing strong against the CCP, Simon said, “None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable.”
Simon said he cannot ask athletes to compete in China while Peng, “is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault.”
He also is concerned about safety if the WTA holds events in China in 2022.
China is also facing the possibility of other athletic events being disrupted that year. The Winter Olympics are set to be held in Beijing in February 2022. President Joe Biden is considering a “diplomatic boycott” while nearly half of Americans want a full boycott.