The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, after former No.1 doubles and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai accused a senior Chinese Communist Party official of sexual assault.
Since then, knowledge of Shuai’s whereabouts has been sporadic, and his virtual meeting with the International Olympic Committee last week has done little to assure the WTA and the international community of his safety.
“The (WTA) recognized that Peng Shuai’s message should be heard and taken seriously. Women in the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less,” said the CEO of WTA Steve Simon in a statement announcing the decision, which he said had the full support of the WTA Board of Directors.
“I very much regret that I got to this point. The tennis communities in China and Hong Kong are full of great people who we have worked with for many years. They should be proud of their accomplishments, their hospitality and their their success. However, unless China takes the action we have requested, we cannot endanger our players and staff by hosting events in China. The Chinese leadership has left the WTA with no choice. I hope that our appeals will be heard and that the Chinese authorities will take action to legitimately tackle this problem.
On November 2, Shuai published a since-deleted post alleging that a former ruling party standing committee member Zhang Gaoli, who helped secure the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and organize the Games, allegedly forced her to have sex despite the rehearsals. refusal.
The WTA immediately expressed concern and said her message to state media that she was fine, despite almost two weeks of silence, was not sufficient proof of her safety. Meanwhile, the IOC withdrew and gave its approval to the actions of the Chinese government.
“Peng Shuai has demonstrated the importance of speaking out, especially when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved,” Simon said. “As Peng said in his post, ‘Even if it’s like an egg hitting a rock, or I’m like a moth drawn by the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth to your topic.’ She knew the dangers she would face, but she made it public anyway. I admire her strength and courage. ”
Simon said he was “satisfied” with international support for China’s withdrawal and encouraged women “around the world” to speak out against the abuses.
“It’s more urgent than ever,” the statement read.
“The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. In doing so, I hope leaders around the world continue to speak out so that justice is served for Peng and all women, regardless of the financial ramifications.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.