WTA “suspends tournaments in China” over Peng Shuai affair

After words, deeds, “whatever the financial consequences”: WTA on Wednesday announced the suspension of women’s tennis tournaments in China, in support of player Peng Shuai who accused a former senior of sexual abuse -communist leader of his country.

In a particularly virulent statement, WTA President Steve Simon announced a strong measure of his authority and called on “world leaders” to follow him.

“I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I do not see how I can ask our athletes to participate in tournaments when Peng Shuai is not allowed. to communicate freely and has, it seems, been pressured to reverse his allegations of sexual abuse, “wrote Steve Simon in a statement.

“In view of the current situation of the case, I am also very worried about the risks that all our players and our staff would take if we organize tournaments in China in 2022 (…) The leaders of China have not left a choice to the WTA, “he adds.

No WTA tournament was planned before the end of the year and the 2022 schedule has yet to be released.

Call to leaders

During the 2019 season, the last not to have been impacted by the Covid-19, 10 tournaments were organized in China, including the end-of-year women’s Masters which, with $ 14 million, had been better endowed financially. than their male counterparts.

“The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. Along with us, I hope the world leaders will continue to stand up for justice for Peng and all women, regardless of the financial consequences. . “

Peng Shuai, 35, disappeared a few days in November after posting a long message on Chinese social network Weibo in which she accused ex-Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, 40 years her senior and since retired, of the having sexually abused before making her his mistress.

Many stars of world tennis, from Chris Evert to Novak Djokovic, and several Western countries, notably France and the United States, but also the European Union and the UN, have asked in diplomatic terms in Beijing to shed light. on the fate of Peng Shuai.

The young woman reappeared on November 21 in a restaurant in Beijing and during a tennis tournament held in the Chinese capital, according to videos published by official media.

“Serious doubts”

She also said during a videoconference with the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, to be “safe and sound at her home in Beijing” but that she “would like her privacy to be respected”. Chinese Olympic Committee member Li Lingwei participated in the video conference.

“Even though we now know Peng’s whereabouts, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion or intimidation,” says Steve Simon on Wednesday.

“Chinese leaders have had opportunities to lift censorship, to verifiably prove that Peng was free and able to speak out without outside interference or intimidation, and to conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation into his accusations of sexual abuse “, he adds, regretting that Beijing has not” acted in a credible way “.

Beijing’s only official reaction to date has been a call by Chinese diplomacy spokesman Zhao Lijian on November 23 to “stop deliberately blaming this issue for hostile ends, and especially make a political question “.

“None of this is acceptable and never will be. If the powerful can suppress the voices of women and sweep accusations of sexual abuse under the rug, then the foundation upon which the WTA is built – equality for women – is I can’t let that happen to the players and I won’t let it, “insists Steve Simon.

Among the first to react to this decision by the president of the WTA, the Czech Petra Kvitova tweeted an emoji in the form of applause, while the French Alizé Cornet tweeted “What a leader!”.

On the men’s side, Andy Roddick also spoke out, stressing the risk taken by the WTA boss: “To do well is much easier when it costs nothing. Respect.”

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WTA “suspends tournaments in China” over Peng Shuai affair

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