Peng Shuai: Women's tennis tournaments cancelled in China over fears for player's safety

1 December 2021, 19:49 | Updated: 1 December 2021, 20:28

There are serious doubt's over Peng's safety and freedom
There are serious doubt's over Peng's safety and freedom. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

All Women's Tennis Association tournaments in China have been suspended over fears for Peng Shuai's safety.

The player had disappeared from public view after she accused a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

The association's chief executive said there are "serious doubts" over the 35-year-old's freedom and safety.

Peng later appeared in a video call in which she said she was safe and well at home in Beijing.

She had also apparently appeared in clips shared by the editor of the state-affiliated Global Times, seemingly showing her "having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant".

The videos have done little to dissuade observers outside of China that she is completely OK.

Read more: Missing tennis player Peng Shuai will make public appearance 'soon', says state media

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The Foreign Office called for "verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts" after the restaurant clips, adding that "everyone should be allowed to speak out without fear of repercussions".

Steve Simon, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), raised fears for players and staff after suspending games in China, which may have repercussions ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

"While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation," said Mr Simon.

"The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation - without censorship - into Peng Shuai's sexual assault accusation.

"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.

"As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong."