WTA Willing to Pull Its Tournaments Out of China, Beijing Remains Silent over Pheng Shuai Allegations

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On Thursday, the Women’s Tennis Association head Steve Simon in front of several U.S media outlets that they are prepared to pull off their tournaments out of China if the Chinese Government fails to provide a proper response on the issue of the sexual assault allegation made by tennis star Pheng Shuai.

Earlier this month, the former doubles world number one accused former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her over a social media post. However, the post was taken down in half an hour and since then there has been no contact with her.

Both Zhang and Beijing have not addressed this yet. On top of that, the Chinese Government is blocking the entire issue using its heavily censored internet.

Simon on Wednesday cast his doubts about the authenticity of the email he had received from Pheng Shuai stating that the accusations made by her were false. The Chinese state media outlet CGTN released the mail to the press which followed growing concern about Pheng Shuai’s whereabouts. The email says, “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”

However, in a statement, Simon said, “The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.”

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he continued.

Pheng has not been seen ever since the allegation post and the global tennis fraternity has already expressed concerns about her safety. Many top tennis players are taking the help of social media to share their support and concerns about Pheng using #WhereIsPhengShuai.

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, in a Twitter post, shared, “I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused. Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way. #whereispengshuai.”

Peng, the 35-year old tennis player, was the first Chinese player to top the world rankings when she grabbed the title of doubles number one in 2014. She won doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

China hosted nine tournaments in the 2019 season altogether and is currently preparing for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. Considering WTA’s past associations with China, WTA pulling its business out of China will cost China tens of millions of dollars.

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