- Three-time Olympian and Wimbledon Doubles star, Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, ex-Vice Premier of sexual assault
- Peng, through her social media post on Weibo, disclosed the entire incident of assault
- WTA founder Billie Jean King and Tennis stalwart Novac Djokovic have backed the decision
CEO and President of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon, on Thursday, declared suspension of all tournaments in China, inclusive of Hong Kong in light of unsatisfactory response that is received and uncertainty around the whereabouts of former Grand Slam Champion, Peng Shuai.
Peng Shuai accused the country’s ex-Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, aged 75, of forcing her into sexual assault. The former Wimbledon Doubles Champion accused a former senior Communist Party Leader of having coerced her into sex.
On the night of 2nd November, a post by the three-time Olympian, Peng Shuai jolted the social media. Her claims of getting sexually assaulted at the hands of ex-Vice Premier and former member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli stirred the entire nation. In her post, Peng highlighted the mental trauma she underwent following the incident.
Her intense allegations were criticised by the Chines social media. Consequent reports of the star going missing raise international concerns. Numerous International stars viz. Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Billie Jean King voiced concerns around the unanticipated disappearance and have taken to Twitter to assert unanimity with Peng under the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, alongside the UN and US. They pressed China to divulge information related to her whereabouts. Various human rights organisations have called for boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Weeks ahead of this, Chinese-affiliated state media circulated a string of photos and videos of Peng and she reportedly took part in a video call with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) head, Thomas Bach. Steve Simon purportedly received an email from the state media wherein Peng professed that the allegations were untrue and that she was “doing fine” and resting at home.
Despite knowing where she is, Simon added, it is difficult to say whether she is safe and free from intimidation. Following the communication between Peng and Bach, it was decided that the video will not be rolled out to the public. Dick Pound, a member of the IOC declared that all the participants in the video call unanimously concluded that Peng Shuai was “fine”.
China is all prepped up to host the Winter Olympics in February 2022. However, it is encountering diplomatic threats of boycott from the US and confederates over the mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinxiang.
Founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean King lauded the WTA’s decision and said that this unprecedented step by the organisation was indubitable.