This file photo taken on January 21, 2020 shows China's Peng Shuai hitting a return against Japan's Nao Hibino during a match of the Australian Open. Photograph:( AFP )
Peng Shuai row: "We are firmly opposed to acts politicising sport," Wenbin said in a brief comment to reporters when asked to react to the WTA announcing immediate suspension of tournaments in China.
Peng Shuai, former World No. 1 in doubles category, has made heads turn ever since she posted on social media, in early November, that China`s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her. Soon after the earthshattering revelations, Shuai had vanished from public eyes amid huge concerns over her whereabouts and safety.
Shuai's video call with Olympic chief, in late November, did lead to a sigh of relief for her fans and followers. However, the World Tennis Association (WTA) had claimed that her chat didn't address the organisation's concerns about her well-being. Back then, a WTA spokesperson stated, "It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don`t alleviate or address the WTA`s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.
On Thursday (December 2), China was dealt with a huge blow as the WTA announced the immediate suspension of all tennis tournaments in the country in the aftermath of the Shuai sexual assault allegations. "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," WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said in a statement.
"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 added.
The development hasn't been received well as foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reacted to the suspension news.
"We are firmly opposed to acts politicising sport," Wenbin said in a brief comment to reporters when asked about the WTA boycott.
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For the unversed, the WTA announcement comes as a huge shock as Beijing is gearing up to host the Winter Olympics in February, 2022. On the other hand, China's human rights record, international rights organisations and others have demanded a boycott of the Beijing Olympics altogether.