The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have this evening suspended all WTA tournaments in China and Hong Kong over Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegations and the events which subsequently followed.
In a statement, WTA chief executive Steve Simon said: “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 compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault.
“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.”
Peng Shuai made an allegation of sexual assault against former Vice Premier of China Zhang Gaoli.
She accused the former official of forced relations in a Weibo post which was removed within minutes.
Since then, Peng has appeared at a Chinese tennis tournament and in a video conversation with the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Back.
She also allegedly sent an email to Steve Simon – though there is doubt over it’s legitimacy too.
However, questions remain over Peng’s ability to communicate freely and without censorship.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” Simon said.
“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 accusation.
“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable.
“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback.
“I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”