WTA pulls all tennis tournaments from China in repsonse to Peng Shuai case

New York, New York - The Women's Tennis Association has suspended all tournaments in China amid fears for the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

Peng Shuai accused a powerful former political figure in China of sexual assault.
Peng Shuai accused a powerful former political figure in China of sexual assault.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Press

There was widespread concern after Peng disappeared from public view in the wake of accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon has revealed "serious doubts" regarding Peng's freedom and safety.

The WTA has repeatedly called for a full investigation into Peng's claims, with the 35-year-old not seen in public for weeks after she accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

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Simon has now revealed fears for the safety of players and staff on suspending events in China, in a move bound to have repercussions for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The International Olympic Committee's response to the saga has already been heavily criticized, and in a statement hastily released after the WTA announcement, the IOC said it had since had "another video call" with Peng Shuai.

No clips or even substantial details about any of the IOC's calls have been made public.

WTA goes for nuclear option

WTA chief executive Steve Simon at the WTA Finals in Singapore, in 2018.
WTA chief executive Steve Simon at the WTA Finals in Singapore, in 2018.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The WTA, on the other hand, has been much more decisive.

"While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation," Steve Simon said.

"The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai's sexual assault accusation."

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He added: "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."

"As a result, and with the full support of the WTA board of directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press

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