China fires back after WTA suspends tournaments over Peng Shuai's safety

Asia's Tech News Daily

China is not happy with the Women’s Tennis Association’s decision to suspend tournaments in the country amid concerns about Chinese player Peng Shuai’s safety.

“We are firmly opposed to acts politicizing sport,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, accusing the WTA of “seriously coercing Peng.”

Last month, Peng took to social media to accuse former top Communist Party official Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

The post was deleted and Peng disappeared for nearly three weeks, which prompted Serena Williams and other figures to speak out. A full investigation followed into Peng’s allegations against Zhang.

Peng, who disappeared from public view on Nov. 2, reemerged in a video call with the International Olympic Committee just over a week ago.

WTA chairman Steve Simon announced Wednesday the “immediate suspension” of tournaments in China and 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.

Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.

#metoo, china, tennis

The WTA has suspended its tournaments in China over concerns about Peng Shuai’s safety.

Getty Images

China’s comments followed the IOC’s response to the WTA, saying it held a second video call with Peng, who “reconfirmed” she is safe.

“We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the wellbeing and safety of Peng Shuai” the IOC said in a statement on Thursday. “This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January. There are different ways to achieve her wellbeing and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centered approach to her situation.”

The IOC said it plans to address its “concerns” about Peng with Chinese Sports organizations through “quiet diplomacy.”

#metoo, china, tennis

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a briefing in July 2020.

AFP via Getty Images

Last month, IOC president Thomas Bach held a “half-hour video conference” with Peng, who the IOC said “explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in.”

Zhang, who retired in 2018, has not addressed Peng’s allegations, nor has the Chinese government. Peng’s situation has been fiercely censored by media and the internet in China.

Peng has won 23 tour-level doubles titles, including Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

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