The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has announced that it will continue its suspension of all tournaments in China this year as it continues to seek answers about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s situation.
The international body expressed concern about the three-time Olympian and grand slam doubles champion when she vanished from the public eye in November last year after accusing retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
In a social media post that she later retracted, she wrote that Zhang forced her into sex in his home while they were in an on-off relationship that lasted for years.
In an interview with French sports magazine L’Équipe four months after she made the accusations, Peng said, “This post has given rise to a huge misunderstanding from the outside world. I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more hype on this.”
Peng’s allegations have since been scrubbed from the Chinese internet. Despite Peng’s eventual denial of her own sexual assault claim, the WTA maintained its call for a thorough and transparent investigation.
According to WTA CEO Steve Simon, they have decided to not return to China this year to ensure her safety, continuing the blanket ban the body announced last year.
“We remain dedicated to finding a resolution to this,” Simon was quoted as saying. “We want to find a resolution that Peng can be comfortable with, the Chinese government can be comfortable with, and we can be comfortable with.”
Simon reiterated that the body is not “walking away from China” and would continue their ban “until we get to a resolution.”
“We will stay resolute,” he added. “We do hope to be back there in 2023 with the resolution that shows progress was made in the space. That’s a victory for the world if we can accomplish that.”
When the WTA first announced the ban last year, China’s state-controlled media took to Twitter to accuse it of “putting on an exaggerated show” and “supporting the West’s attack on Chinese system.”
Peng met with officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Beijing Winter Games in February.
However, Simon noted then that the dinner between IOC President Thomas Bach and Peng was not enough to assure them of Peng’s safety.
“We have not had any recent communication with Peng and the world has not seen Peng since the Olympics either,” Simon explained. “I don’t think you will make a change in this world by walking away from issues. You have to create change.”
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