Dramatic move as WTA suspends all Chinese tournaments amid Peng Shuai concerns
The Women’s Tennis Association had threatened to withdraw all of its business with China over ongoing concerns over the safety of Peng Shuai and now they followed through with that plan.
There was widespread concern after Peng disappeared from public view in the wake of accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.
Now WTA chief executive Steve Simon has revealed “serious doubts” over Peng’s freedom and safety.
The WTA has repeatedly called for a full investigation into Peng’s claims, with the 35-year-old not seen in public for weeks after accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
"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."
— wta (@WTA) December 1, 2021
Simon has now revealed fears for the safety of players and staff on suspending events in China – in a move that could have repercussions for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” said Simon.
“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.
“As a result, and 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.”
Simon insisted the WTA will not relax its stance until Chinese officials comply with a number of demands, not least concerning Peng’s safety and whereabouts.
“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,” said Simon.
“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.
“I very much regret it has come to this point. The tennis communities in China and Hong Kong are full of great people with whom we have worked for many years.
“However, unless China takes the steps we have asked for, we cannot put our players and staff at risk by holding events in China. China’s leaders have left the WTA with no choice.
“I remain hopeful that our pleas will be heard and the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue.”
Pablo Carreno Busta joins the ranks of Masters champions after Montreal fightback
Pablo Carreno Busta is a Masters champion and makes a serious move in the Race to Turin.
Exclusive – Laura Robson leaps to the defence of Emma Raducanu
Former British No 1 Laura Robson is baffled by the inflated expectations Emma Raducanu.
Exclusive – Tim Henman backs Andy Murray to defy his doubters once again
Former British No 1 Henman suggests Murray wins against top players over the last year will encourage him to fight on.
Simona Halep wins ding-dong battle to claim third Canadian Open title
Halep extended her impressive wins record at WTA 1000 events moving out to 185 matches won in the flagship events.
How to watch Masters finals in Toronto and Montreal
How to track the Canadian Open action.
Simona Halep to return to top ten after reaching Toronto final
Simona Halep and Beatriz Haddad Maia will battle it out for the Toronto Masters title.
Dan Evans battles bravely but Pablo Carreno Busta sets Hubert Hurkacz showdown
The British number two was eventually outlasted 7-5 6-7 6-2 across two hours and 58 minutes.
Andy Murray gets Cinccinati boost, but handed tricky opener against old foe with Cameron Norrie also lurking
Andy Murray handed tough assignment in Cincinnati.
Dan Evans vs Pablo Carreno Busta: How to watch Montreal semis as Evans looks to sneak into ATP top 20
A quick lowdown on the Canadian Masters semi-final and possible ATP Ranking changes.