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WTA, Crossroads With China

peng shuai

WTA, Crossroads With China

The unknown whereabouts of the Chinese former doubles world number 1 Peng Shuai have caused an outcry with Women’s Tennis Association Chief Executive Steve Simon saying that he was considering pulling tournaments out of China.

Peng was not seen or heard up until recently, after she publicly said on Chinese social media on November 2 that that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.

Peng’s social media post was quickly deleted, and there has been no comment from former vice-premier Zhang or the Chinese Government.

Concern has been growing over Peng’s whereabouts, with a list of the world’s top players expressing their concern, including Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Steve Simon is demanding a full investigation, with the U.N. and White House joining the demand for assurance and proof that Peng Shuai is safe.

A recent video posted by China state-run media appeared to show Peng Shui dining in a restaurant in Beijing.

In a statement in response to the video, Steve Simon said: “I am glad to see the videos released by China state-run media that appear to show Peng Shuai at a restaurant in Beijing.

“While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference.

“This video alone is insufficient.

“As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug.

“I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads,” said Smith.

China has been a strong focus for the WTA’s plans for expansion over the past decade, hosting nine tournaments in the 2019 season with a total of $30.4 million prize money.

Shenzhen hosted the season-ending finals for WTA in 2019 with a prize pool of $14 million.

Commercial deals that may be affected include streaming platforms iQiyi’s 10-year digital rights partnership worth $120 million, which commenced in 2017.

WTA was planning on Shenzhen as the host location for the Finals from 2022 to 2030.

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