Fans wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” t-shirts while attending the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne were asked by security to remove the shirts due to rules set by Tennis Australia.
According to ESPN, video of security asking the fans to remove the t-shirts was uploaded to TikTok, where officials can be heard saying that “political slogans” are not allowed at the Australian Open.
“Under our ticket conditions of entry we don’t allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political,” a Tennis Australia spokesperson told Guardian Australia. “Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her wellbeing.”
Peng’s safety has been a concern since her November 2nd social media post in which she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her three years ago following a round of tennis. She also said Zhang’s wife guarded the door. Her post was deleted nearly 30 minutes after publication and Peng’s account on Weibo — a Chinese social media platform — was blocked from searchers on the platform.
Peng was not seen or heard from publicly until a November 17 statement attributed to Peng was shared on Twitter by CGTN — a Chinese state-affiliated media company — where Peng denied her claim that Zhang sexually assaulted her.
The IOC has held two calls with Peng, including a December 2nd call that “reconfirmed” that Peng appeared to be “appeared to be safe and well.”
Shortly after the second call with the IOC, the Women’s Tennis Association announced a suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including in Hong Kong.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” WTA CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement to the WTA website. “While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. 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.”
In December, Peng told Lianhe Zaobao — a Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper — that she never made the accusations, saying there “has been a lot of misunderstanding.”
“I want to emphasize one thing that is very important,” Peng said. “That I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulted me. This point is very important to be emphasized clearly.”
“First of all, it’s my personal privacy,” she continued. “There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here.”
Following Peng’s statements, the WTA continued their call for a “full, fair and transparent investigation” into Peng’s sexual assault claims.
“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern,” the WTA said in a statement.
“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well,” the WTA continued. “As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”
Victoria Azarenka, a WTA Player Council member, said that attempts to get in contact with Peng haven’t been successful.
“There hasn’t been that much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai even though from our side we will continue to make any and all efforts to make sure that she is safe, she feels comfortable,” Azarenka said.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].