The Women’s Tennis Association announced on Wednesday that it will not hold tournaments in China in response to the country’s handling of star player Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegations. The suspension also applies to tournaments held in Hong Kong. Peng, a former world’s No. 1 doubles player, accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault on social media platform Weibo on Nov. 2. Supporters expressed concern that she hadn’t been seen publicly after she made the accusation, however, China arranged for her to take part in a video call with International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach on Nov. 21.
WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon accused Beijing of censoring Peng’s allegations and failing to fully investigate the alleged sexual assault, saying: “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. 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.”
Simon added that ignoring allegations of sexual assault would cause an “immense setback” for the WTA: “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. 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.”
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