Women’s Tennis Association Announces ‘Immediate Suspension’ Of All Tournaments In China Amid Concerns Over Female Tennis Star
The World Tennis Association (WTA) announced it would suspend all tournaments in China on Wednesday in support of tennis star Peng Shuai.
“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,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “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.”
“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 said.
The WTA had increased its presence in China in recent years, with the country hosting several WTA tournaments in 2019. After Peng’s sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese official and Peng’s subsequent disappearance, however, the sports organization has been unrelenting in advocating for an investigation into her accusation and confirmation of her safety.
“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,” Simon said. “Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way.”
Simon acknowledged that while the world now knows where Peng is, he has “serious doubts” that she is free and suspects she is facing “censorship, coercion and intimidation.”
Simon’s words stand in contrast to those of Dick Pound, a senior official of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who said the “unanimous conclusion” of its members who allegedly spoke to Peng on Nov. 21 was that she was not in any danger. Peng reportedly appeared in a video call with the IOC almost three weeks after her disappearance in early November, assuring that she was safe and asking for privacy.
“After he said that standing up for the welfare of Peng Shuai was more important than the WTA’s business with China, President Simon had little choice but to take this step,” Kelley Eckels Currie, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement.
“I hope the IOC will look at the WTA’s example and examine its problematic involvement in this matter, as well as how this reflects on the Olympic Games,” she added.
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