Steve Simon, president and executive director of the WTA, made it known publicly that there will be no tournaments of the organization in China, regarding the Peng Shuai case
The whereabouts of Peng shuai, a former world number one in doubles, became a matter of international concern almost a month ago, after claiming that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted him.
“When Peng Shuai published a sexual assault complaint against a senior Chinese government official on November 2, 2021, the WTA recognized that Peng Shuai’s message had to be heard and taken seriously. WTA players, not to mention women around the world, deserve no less than that. “ Simon declared, in another of the many communiqués.
“From that moment on, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved. As Peng said in his post,” Even if it’s like an egg hitting a stone, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you. “She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.”
“Since then, Peng’s message has been removed from the Internet and discussion of this serious issue has been censored in China. Chinese officials have been given the opportunity to end this censorship, verifiably demonstrate that Peng is freely and can speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault fully, fairly, and transparently. Unfortunately, China’s leadership has not credibly addressed this serious issue. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that it is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation, without censorship, into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault charge. “
“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress women’s voices and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the foundation on which the WTA was founded, equality for women, I would suffer a huge setback. I will not and cannot allow that to happen to the WTA and its players. “
“As a result, and with the full support of The WTA Board of Directors announced the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. Being aware, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has apparently been pressured to contradict her accusation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also very concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022. “
“I have been pleased with the tremendous amount of international support the WTA has received for its position on this matter. To further protect Peng and many other women around the world, it is more urgent than ever that the people speak up. The WTA will do as much as possible to protect their players. As we do so, I hope leaders around the world continue to speak out so that justice can be served for Peng and for all women, regardless of the financial ramifications. “
“I am very sorry that you have reached this point. The tennis communities in China and Hong Kong are full of great people who we have worked with for many years. They should be proud of their accomplishments, hospitality and success. However, unless China take the measures we have requested, we cannot put our players and staff at risk when holding events in China. China’s leaders have left the WTA with no other option. I am hopeful that our pleas will be heard and the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue. “
It should be remembered that on November 2, the tennis player published on social networks that she had forced sex and that later she had had an intermittent consensual relationship. The post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s heavily censored internet. However, the most iconic tennis players, even Roger Federer, spoke on the subject.