In an announcement launched Wednesday, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon stated the choice was based mostly on the “unacceptable” response of Chinese language officers within the #MeToo scandal, together with dashing to censor Peng’s allegations and ignoring requires a full and clear investigation.
“In good conscience, I do not see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is just not allowed to speak freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” Simon stated.
“Given the present state of affairs, I’m additionally enormously involved in regards to the dangers that each one of our gamers and workers may face if we had been to carry occasions in China in 2022.”
Considered one of China’s most recognizable sports activities stars, Peng publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into intercourse at his residence three years in the past in a since-deleted social media publish dated November 2.
Peng was instantly muffled by blanket censorship and disappeared from public view for greater than two weeks, prompting the ladies tennis’ world to demand solutions as to Peng’s whereabouts — in addition to a full investigation into her allegations in opposition to Zhang.
Amid rising world outcry, people working for Chinese language government-controlled media and the state sports activities system launched plenty of “proof of life” photographs and movies of Peng.
“Sadly, the management in China has not addressed this very critical challenge in any credible method. Whereas we now know the place Peng is, I’ve critical doubts that she is free, protected, and never topic to censorship, coercion, and intimidation,” Simon stated.
“None of that is acceptable nor can it turn out to be acceptable. If highly effective individuals can suppress the voices of ladies and sweep allegations of sexual assault underneath the rug, then the premise on which the WTA was based — equality for girls — would undergo an immense setback. I cannot and can’t let that occur to the WTA and its gamers.”
“I can solely think about the vary of feelings, and emotions, which might be possible going via Peng proper now. We hope that she feels that none of that is her fault, we’re very happy with her,” Simon stated in an interview with CNN Wednesday, following the most recent WTA assertion.
“However that is one thing we won’t stroll away from. If we stroll away from this, we’re principally telling the world, that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK,” he stated. “It is one thing that we merely can’t permit to occur, and it is not the place we stand for as a company.”
WTA’s determination to drag out of China was applauded Wednesday by some greatest names in ladies’s tennis, lots of whom have beforehand voiced considerations for Peng’s security and whereabouts on Twitter, utilizing the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame Billie Jean King praised the WTA determination “for taking a powerful stand on defending human rights in China and world wide.”
“The WTA has chosen to be on the suitable aspect of historical past in defending the rights of our gamers,” Jean stated in an announcement, including: “That is but another excuse why ladies’s tennis is the chief in ladies’s sports activities.”
Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam winner, additionally weighed in noting the obvious silence of the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) forward of the following 12 months’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
“This can be a courageous stance by Steve Simon and the WTA the place we put precept above $ and rise up for girls all over the place and notably for Peng Shuai. Now – what say you, @IOC ?!? #IOC – up to now I can barely hear you!!!” stated Navratilova in an announcement posted on-line.
On November 21, the IOC stated in an announcement that its president, Thomas Bach, held a 30-minute video name with three-time Olympian Peng, alongside a Chinese language sports activities official and a further IOC consultant.
The assertion stated that, through the name, Peng seemed to be “doing effective” and was “relaxed,” saying she “want to have her privateness revered.” The IOC didn’t clarify how the video name with Peng was organized and has not made the video publicly accessible.
Chinese language authorities haven’t acknowledged Peng’s allegations in opposition to Zhang — who has light from public life since his retirement in 2018 — and there’s no indication an investigation is underway. It stays unclear if Peng has reported her allegations to the police.
Late final month, China’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs stated that the federal government hoped “malicious hypothesis” relating to Peng’s well-being and whereabouts would cease, including that her case shouldn’t be politicized.
Chinese language authorities haven’t responded to the WTA’s determination to drag out of China. WTA’s assertion is just not posted on its official account on Weibo, China’s closely censored model of Twitter.
The WTA’s account — which has greater than 400,000 followers — continues to be up on Weibo, however it has been blocked from search outcomes, although some posts stay accessible.
Some Weibo customers voiced assist for the WTA’s determination in feedback underneath the affiliation’s outdated posts within the early hours of Thursday, however they had been quickly censored.
Tennis’ recognition in China has grown quickly over the previous few many years, with a number of Chinese language gamers breaking into the worldwide rankings. The ladies’s sport, particularly, is a giant market, thanks partly to the success of Chinese language tennis star Li Na, who in 2011 grew to become Asia’s first grand slam singles tennis champion when she received the French Open, adopted by a second main title on the 2014 Australian Open.
In recent times, the WTA has made a giant push into China. In 2019, the WTA Finals relocated from Singapore to the southern Chinese language metropolis of Shenzhen, getting into right into a prolonged ten-year deal.
In an interview with the New York Instances from 2018, Simon described the association with authorities in Shenzhen, which reportedly consists of the development of a brand new multimillion greenback tennis stadium, as a “enormous alternative” for girls’s tennis in China.
“If you issue within the dedication to prize cash and the commitments to the WTA, and also you issue within the stadium construct and real-estate parts, it is over a $1 billion greenback dedication they’ve made to the WTA Finals and the WTA,” Simon was quoted as saying.
There have been no WTA occasions in China for the previous two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The WTA has but to launch the 2022 occasion calendar, however on common the skilled tennis tour has held about 10 tournaments every year in China, together with the season-ending WTA Finals.