The Women’s Tennis Association has declared that all competitions in China would be suspended immediately due to concerns about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
After accusing a prominent Chinese official of sexual assault, Peng, 35, vanished from public view for three weeks.
Steve Simon, the WTA’s president, expressed “severe reservations” that Peng was “free, safe, and not subjected to intimidation.”
“I don’t see how I can expect our athletes to participate there in good conscience,” he remarked.
China has responded by stating that it “opposes the politicization of sports.”
The news of the WTA canceling events in China has been taken down from the Chinese internet, while the WTA’s account on the Chinese social media site Weibo remains active.
The WTA has consistently demanded that Peng’s charges be thoroughly investigated.
After she accused former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, there was considerable worry for Peng.
During a November video conference with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, she stated that she was “safe and healthy.”
The WTA, on the other hand, deemed the footage “insufficient evidence” of Peng’s safety.
Simon stated in a long statement that he is “very worried” about the hazards that players and staff may face if the 2022 Olympics are staged in China.
“China’s leadership has failed to handle this critical problem in a credible manner,” he added.
“If strong people can silence women’s voices and push charges of sexual assault under the rug, the WTA’s founding principle of equality for women will suffer a major blow.”
“That is something I will not and cannot allow to happen to the WTA and its players.”
Tournaments in Hong Kong are similarly affected by the ban.
Novak Djokovic, the world number one, applauded the WTA’s “extremely daring and very courageous” decision, calling Peng’s health “of paramount significance to the world of tennis.”
“I absolutely endorse the WTA’s position,” he said, “since we don’t have enough information regarding Peng Shuai and her well-being.”
Billie Jean King, the former world number one and creator of the WTA, applauded the organization for adopting a strong stance.
“This is another another reason why women’s tennis is the most popular sport among female athletes,” King commented on Twitter.
“By supporting our players, the WTA is on the right side of history.”
Several players, including Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon winner, and Shelby Rogers, the US Open quarterfinalist, voiced their support for the WTA’s decision.
Julian Knight, the leader of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, praised the decision, saying, “If only other sports shown same solidarity and moral clarity.”