Peng Shuai sexual assault row: WTA announces immediate suspension of all tournaments in China

WION Web Team
NEW DELHIUpdated: Dec 03, 2021, 08:23 AM IST


Story highlights

Chinese professional tennis player Peng Shuai had posted a message on social media in early November alleging that China`s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

All WTA events in China, including Hong Kong, have been suspended indefinitely, according to Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chairman and CEO Steve Simon.

Simon said in a statement issued Wednesday that his decision was based on Chinese officials' lack of openness in the aftermath of tennis player Peng Shuai's sexual assault claim against a prominent Chinese government official. 

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After accusing the Chinese official of sexual assault, Peng Shuai, 35, vanished from public view for three weeks.

She had posted a message on social media in early November alleging that China's former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.

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Steve Simon, the WTA's president, expressed "severe reservations" that Peng was "free, safe, and not subjected to intimidation." 

Peng's claim has elicited no response from Zhang, who resigned in 2018, or the Chinese government, and the matter has been barred from direct debate on China's strictly regulated internet. 

"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.

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"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."

The announcement comes as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February of next year.

Over China's human rights record, international rights organisations and others have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. 

(With inputs from agencies)