“With a clear conscience I do not see how we can ask our athletes to compete there if Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely,” said WTA boss Steve Simon in a statement on Tuesday. Peng Shuai is apparently being pressured to back up her allegations of sexual assault. “I am very sorry that it has come to this,” said Simon.
Peng Shuai, the former world number one in doubles, published allegations of sexual assault by a top Chinese politician on the Weibo social network in early November. The 35-year-old’s post was deleted soon after. Since then, athletes, politicians and human rights activists have expressed concern for the tennis player’s well-being.
China’s leaders would have left the WTA with no other choice. He continues to hope that the requests will be heard and that the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue, Simon said.
“Given the current situation, I am also very concerned about the risks that all of our players could be exposed to if we were to hold events in China in 2022,” the WTA said.
China is a major sponsor of the Ladies Tour with a number of events. The case is becoming even more explosive due to the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing in February and the ongoing criticism of the host country.