WTA Just Suspended All Tournaments in China

Chairman doubts Peng Shuai is being allowed to speak freely
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2021 5:28 PM CST
WTA Just Suspended All Tournaments in China
China's Peng Shuai reacts during her first round singles match against Japan's Nao Hibino at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020.   (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

(Newser) – The Women's Tennis Association says it is unconvinced by China's efforts to show Peng Shuai is speaking freely, so it is suspending all tournaments in China with immediate effect. In a statement released Tuesday, WTA Chairman Steve Simon said he had "serious doubts" that Peng, who accused former top Communist Party official of sexual assault last month, "is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation," the BBC reports. The Nov. 2 social media post in which Peng alleged assault was swiftly taken down and Chinese censors scrubbed mentions of it from the internet. After weeks out of sight, she told Olympic officials in a 30-minute video call that she was "safe and well," though the WTA still expressed concern for her welfare.

"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. "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." He said the WTA is calling for "a full and transparent investigation—without censorship—into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation."

"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," Simon said. Analysts say pulling out of China could hit the WTA's finances hard, the Guardian reports. The WTA, which has made large investments in China, hasn't held a tournament in the country since the start of the pandemic, but it held nine there in the 2019, accounting for a large portion of its revenue. (Read more Peng Shuai stories.)

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