WTA returns to China despite concerns from tennis star Peng Shuai
The Women’s Tennis Association will return to China this fall although it concluded it could not confirm the safety of star player Peng Shuai, who alleged in 2021 that a former senior Chinese Communist Party official killed him. had sexually assaulted.
Peng’s allegation quickly deleted on social media sparked China’s biggest scandal of the #MeToo era. The WTA withdrew his competitions from China and Hong Kong from December 2021, calling for a full and independent investigation into the player’s claims and assurances that Peng is “free, safe and uncensored”.
Ping has rarely been seen in public since, apart from a handful of coordinated appearances in China, including the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The tour said on Thursday that “the situation has shown no signs of changing. We have concluded that we will never fully achieve these goals and it will be our players and our tournaments who will ultimately pay an extraordinary price for their sacrifices.
The WTA added, “We have been in contact with people close to Peng and made sure she is living safely with her family in Beijing.”
As the tour pulled out of China, WTA President Steve Simon said, “If powerful people can suppress women’s voices and sweep sexual assault allegations under the rug, then the grassroots on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would be a huge setback”.
Peng has since backtracked on the claims in her initial Weibo post, telling Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao and L’Équipe Française that no one had sexually assaulted her. The French sports daily, which met Peng in Beijing with a Chinese Olympic Committee official, said its questions to Peng had been considered.
Before the uproar around Peng, China was one of the WTA’s biggest growth markets, with around a fifth of its world tournaments played in the country. In 2018, the WTA has signed a 10-year contract to host its WTA Finals marquee in Shenzhen.
The tour worked to find commercial support elsewhere. Last month, the WTA received a $150 million investment from CVC Capital Partners, giving the private equity group a 20% stake in a new business venture between the two entities.