Peng Shuai case, WTA suspends tournaments in China and Hong Kong in 2022

The WTA has decided to suspend all tournaments scheduled in China and Hong Kong in 2022: the decision, as explained by President Simon in the official statement, is linked to the case of Peng Shuai and the still unclear situation regarding the real condition of the tennis player: “This business is bigger than any business”

“In all conscience, I don’t know how I could ask our players to play in the country where Peng Shuai is not allowed to speak freely.” The WTA threat, in the air for weeks, has become a reality. Steve Simon, the president of the association of professional tennis players has decided to cancel all scheduled tournaments in China and Hong Kong in 2022, ten in all, including the Wta Finals which were initially planned in Shenzen until 2030. “Although we know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that the woman is free, safe and not subject to censorship or intimidation“wrote Simon in a press release, adding: “The WTA has been clear, we need transparent investigations into the allegations of sexual abuse suffered by Peng Shuai.”

An international case

On November 2, the thirty-five-year-old former Chinese tennis player, number one in doubles in 2014, accused former deputy minister Zang Ghaoli of sexual abuse in a long post published on the social media Weibo. “Like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth on a flame, going towards self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you,” the woman had written. The post had been deleted less than half an hour after its publication and since then it has been lost for weeks.. The hashtag #WhereisPengShuai has gone viral and has involved the tennis community and beyond, with appeals from the United States Congress, the UN and the European Union, as well as threats of diplomatic boycotts. After 13 days of searches and appeals, on November 15 China Global Television Network, a channel controlled by the central government of Beijing, published a tweet with the contents of an email addressed to Steve Simon in which Shuai reassured the recipient about his state of health. : “I’m fine and I’m safe. I’m resting at home and everything is ok. The news of the sexual abuse is false. Thank you for taking care of me,” the e-mail read. In response, the WTA issued one note from Simon: “It’s hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote that email. We need independent and certain proof that the woman is well and safe. Women’s voices must be heard and respected, not censored “.

“A story bigger than any business”

And while the International Olympic Committee, three months after the Beijing Winter Games, called for “calm diplomacy”, in addressing the Peng Shuai question, Steve Simon’s tone, on the contrary, has become increasingly peremptory: “Too many times in the world, in matters like this, we let business, politics or money tell us what is right or what is wrong. Instead, we need to start making choices based on what is right and what is wrong, without compromising. Because this is bigger than any business, “Simon reiterated. In 2019 China hosted nine WTA tournaments, including the Finals, with a total prize pool of over $ 30 million. An economic loss accounted for by the president of the WTA who said he was ready to accept all the consequences of the case, putting the well-being of the players before business. The reassurances of the Chinese government were not enough for the WTA, the photos in which the woman appeared smiling at a restaurant, at an award ceremony, in places and times that are not better identified.

The video call with the president of the IOC

It was not even enough video call of 21 November between Peng Shuai and the president of the IOC Thomas Bach and the invitation to meet for dinner next February on the occasion of the opening of the Winter Games. “He is fine and in good health”, the president of the IOC athletes commission Emma Tarho reassured at the end of the video call. A reassurance that evidently was not enough for the WTA which unanimously decided to suspend all tournaments scheduled in China: “It is more urgent than ever that people raise their voices. The WTA will do everything it can to protect its players. And like us, I hope that leaders around the world do the same to make sure that justice be done for Peng and for all women, regardless of the economic consequences “, reads the note of December 1, which continues:” I am sorry to have reached this point. But as long as China does not do what we have asked for we cannot put players and their staff at risk by organizing events in the country. The Chinese leaders did not leave us a choice. “At the beginning of the story, Steve Simon, supported by Billie Jean King, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, but also by personalities outside the world of tennis and sport, said:” China is big, but they have to realize that we are big too. ”

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Peng Shuai case, WTA suspends tournaments in China and Hong Kong in 2022