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WTA Suspends Tournaments in China Until Regime Proves Peng Shuai is Free

WTA, El American

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The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the governing organization of women’s tennis, announced Wednesday that all of its tournaments in China (including Hong Kong) are suspended “immediately” until Chinese authorities “verifiably” demonstrate that Peng Shuai is free.

“Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner,” read the WTA statement announcing the decision. “Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way.”

Steve Simon, current president of the organization, writes in the document that, while they now have knowledge of the tennis player’s whereabouts, he has “serious doubts” that Peng Shuai “is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation.”

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable,” Simon continues in the text. “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.”

WTA sees no other option

The organization does not conceive how to offer safety and security to its athletes and encourage them to compete as long as Peng Shuai is not able to communicate freely. Moreover, it suggests that the tennis player has been “pressured to contradict” her accusations of sexual abuse against powerful figures in the Asian giant.

“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,” Simon said.

The WTA believes China has given it no choice but to suspend all activities. Simon believes it is “more urgent than ever” for more people to speak out regarding the Peng Shuai case, and calls on world leaders to intervene in the matter “no matter the financial ramifications.”

Peng Shuai disappeared in early November after accusing Zhang Gaoli, a Communist Party leader in her country, of rape. Although the International Olympic Committee said it had spoken to the tennis player, many doubts continue to surround her whereabouts, her freedom, and her physical stability.

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