TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) on Sunday (Nov. 14) warned that the organization would consider halting its operations in China if former tennis player Peng Shuai's (彭帥) allegations of sexual abuse are not adequately addressed.
On her official Weibo account on Nov. 2, Peng alleged that she had been coerced into having sex by former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli (張高麗) before becoming his mistress. The post was quickly scrubbed from the Chinese internet, and Peng has not been seen or heard from since.
On Sunday, the WTA issued a statement from association Chairman and CEO Steve Simon in which he called for a "full, fair and transparent investigation into the sexual assault allegations against (a) former Chinese leader." Simon also demanded the "end of censorship against Peng Shuai."
In an interview with The New York Times, Simon reiterated his call for Chinese officials to launch a "full and transparent investigation" into Peng's allegations. Simon said that anything less than a thorough investigation would be an "affront to not only our players but to all women."
He then stressed that if the WTA does not see "appropriate results" from the Chinese government, the organization is "prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to." Acknowledging that cutting ties would affect its 11 tournaments in China and the deal to hold the finals in Shenzhen from 2022 to 2030, he said. “I think everybody fully understands what’s at stake here on many different fronts as we’re going through it."
Nevertheless, Simon indicated that the WTA would stick to its principles to protect the rights of its players: “I think we’re certainly, from players to board to council, fully united that the only acceptable approach is that of doing what is right."
When asked to comment on Peng's whereabouts and her allegations during a press conference on Monday (Nov. 15), Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) simply said, "I have not heard of the issue you raised." He added, "This is not a diplomatic question."