Tennis is not known for its raucous applause but perhaps some is in order for the bosses of the Women’s Tennis Association, who last night announced that they would not be hosting tournaments in China for the foreseeable future.
The move is in response to ongoing concerns about the welfare of Chinese player Peng Shuai, who all but disappeared three weeks ago after accusing a senior Chinese government official of sexual assault.
couple of suspicious video appearances has done nothing to assuage concerns about her safety. As the WTA’s chief Steve Simon said last night, there are “serious doubts” that she is “free, safe and not subject to intimidation.”
In a world in which the FIFA World Cup can be held in Qatar after a rigged bidding process, or the Winter Olympics can be held in Beijing under the eyes of a regime that two thousand miles away on its eastern flank is engaged in what looks an awful lot like ethnic cleansing, such backbone in the sporting world is rare but extremely welcome.
Some corporates could learn a thing or two.
Last week Beijing received an apology from Jamie Dimon, the boss of JP Morgan, after he jokingly remarked that the bank would outlive the Chinese Communist Party. As comedy skits go it was hardly Blackadder but it was, quite evidently, a joke.
Beijing, predictably, didn’t see the funny side – but it is JP Morgan and Dimon who should be most embarrassed for their limp apology. That trivial episode pales in comparison to the craven approval some global companies have given to China’s vicious assault on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.
Global businesses are, or should be, a force for good. The Chinese Communist Party is not, and previous evidence suggests it is unlikely to become so.
Let’s hope some in the world’s most elevated c-suites are tennis fans. After all, to win you do have to return a serve or two – no matter how powerful they might be.