Peng Shuai case: by suspending its tournaments in China, the WTA defends human rights against Beijing

The Women Tennis Players’ Association (WTA) has followed through on its threats: a week after Chinese state media staged Peng Shuai’s return, it announced on Wednesday 1is December, that it suspended its tournaments in China. On November 2, the former world number one in doubles accused ex-minister Zhang Gaoli of rape, in a long story – immediately censored – published on the Chinese social network Weibo, before disappearing for nearly three weeks.

The WTA was quick to voice its concern, accompanying a campaign launched by players asking: “Where’s Peng Shuai?” “ The association becomes the first to oppose China head-on, when most sports organizations avoid offending the second largest economic power in the world, to continue to do business there.

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“If the powerful can censor women’s voices, and sweep sexual assault charges under the rug, then the foundation upon which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer greatly,” WTA President Steve Simon wrote in a statement. This is the reason why, with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to participate when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has apparently been pressured to reverse his allegations of assault. sexual. The leaders of China have left no choice to the WTA “, he adds.

“Very strong and very courageous” position

Several players, including the Czech Petra Kvitova and the French Alizé Cornet, congratulated the president of the association on Twitter. World men’s tour number Novak Djokovic also said on the sidelines of the Davis Cup: “I fully support the position of the WTA, because we do not have enough information on Peng Shuai (…). I think the position of the WTA is very strong and very courageous. “ On the other hand, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congratulated itself last week on having been able to speak on video with the player. The organization said “Relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well”.

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In China, the case is still taboo, but the WTA’s decision drew some enthusiastic comments on social media, which was quickly censored. The foreign ministry has repeatedly refused to comment on the case, on the pretext that it “This is not a diplomatic problem”, going so far as to threaten journalists asking too many questions on the subject, during his daily press conference.

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Peng Shuai case: by suspending its tournaments in China, the WTA defends human rights against Beijing