WTA urged to stand firm on Peng Shuai and China

Peng Shuai
Peng Shuai

A senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch has urged the WTA to stick to its principles and not resume playing tournaments in China until the Peng Shuai issue has been resolved.

Yaqiu Wang of Human Rights Watch says the WTA cannot back down in the midst of the planned return to China of both ATP and ITF events.

“I have tremendous sympathy for the WTA because I know it’s losing a lot of money but I have to say it got so much praise for standing up for the values it believes in contrary to a lot of other businesses,” Wang told Reuters in a Zoom interview from New York.

“At the time it happened, I felt very inspired and I really hope it (WTA) can stick to what it said. I understand it’s a lot of money but human rights are more important.

“Honestly, it should care for its own players.”

Wang says that the WTA’s resolve will be tested as they are leaving a whole lot of money on the table by holding China accountable on the Peng Shuai issue.

“I still give credit to the WTA for saying what it said, because all businesses expected the market to open. So it took a risk at that time,” Wang added.

“If it’s reversed, the message really is the WTA eventually succumbed to business and to profit and the WTA is no different to other businesses. I really wish for this not to happen.”

The WTA have demanded private meetings with Peng Shuai before events can resume in China.

The top women’s tour has made it clear that they are willing to continue to avoid China so long as they are not satisfied with the official version of events from the People’s Republic.

“We have received confirmation that Peng is safe and comfortable, but we have not yet met with her personally,” the WTA said in a statement on Thursday.

“There has not been any change in the WTA position on a return to China and we have only confirmed our 2023 calendar through US Open.

“While we have always indicated we are hopeful we will be in a position to again operate WTA events in the region, we will not compromise our founding principles in order to do so,” the WTA Tour said in a statement.

Wang meanwhile urged players and officials returning to China to bring attention to the Peng Shuai situation as a matter of priority.

“When they have a presence in China they must use every opportunity to raise Peng’s case with Chinese officials in their communications and in meetings. When they have the camera, they must talk about Peng.

“Anybody in China who has been born and has grown up in the system knows the risks and she did it (spoke out). It’s a courageous act. I feel talking about her case to an extent keeps her safe.”

The ATP Tour plans to play three events in China, including the returning Shanghai Masters.

READ MORE: WTA chief warns that interview ‘does not alleviate any of our concerns’