WTA suspends tournaments in China due to fallout from Peng Shuais sexual assault allegation
The Womens Tennis Association announced Wednesday it is immediately suspending its tournaments in China in response to ongoing concerns about the safety and well-being of Peng Shuai.
The announcement was made by WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon, who noted the decision, which will represent millions in lost revenue, had the full support of the WTA board.
The decision makes good on a threat Simon issued Nov. 19 to pull its events from the country after questioning the authenticity of an email circulated by state media and attributed to Peng. Simon also called for an investigation into her Nov. 2 allegation in a social media post that she had been sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China.
Since then, Simon noted, Peng's message was removed from the Internet and discussion of the topic has been censored in China.
While Chinese officials shared footage of Peng in recent days and on Nov. 21 arranged a video call with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, it remains unclear, Simon noted, that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation.
"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," Simon wrote. " 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.
"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.
China is preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in less than two months.