China took a big blow. “There has never been such a situation yet”

Women’s tennis organization canceled tournaments in China, although it was supposed to earn huge money on them. All because of Shuai Peng’s mysterious disappearance. – It is a very strong signal – says Joanna Sakowicz-Kostecka.

Tomasz Skrzypczyński

Tomasz Skrzypczyński

Shuai Peng

Getty Images / In the photo: Shuai Peng

– They left us no choice – says Steve Simon, the head of the women’s tennis organization (WTA). This explains the unprecedented and courageous decision that hardly anyone expected in the tennis environment. It turns out that the mysterious disappearance of tennis player Shuai Peng will have serious consequences for China.

On Wednesday, Simon announced that due to serious doubts about the 35-year-old’s situation, he will decide to suspend all WTA tournaments in China and Hong Kong!

“I do not understand how you can send tennis players there, since Shuai Peng still cannot communicate freely. The risk would be too great. If China does not take steps to clarify the matter, we will not organize tournaments there,” declared the head of the WTA.

And although there were rumors of such a decision in November, not everyone took it seriously. They must now.

The photos did not convince anyone

– The WTA’s decision clearly shows that the topic has not been and will not be swept under the carpet. I am very pleased, because so far there has not been such a strong position on the issue of care for women’s rights, tells us the expert and commentator of Canal + Sport Joanna Sakowicz-Kostecka.

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Recall: On November 2, Chinese tennis player Shuai Peng published an entry on the Weibo platform, in which she accused former deputy prime minister of the local government, Gaola Zhang, of harassing her and repeatedly forcing her to have sexual relations with a politician.

The fast disappeared after 30 minutes, then the interested person disappeared. The situation worried not only the WTA authorities, but also the biggest stars – Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world joined the internet campaign under the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

The case of the Chinese woman’s disappearance became even more mysterious when a news “written” by Shuai Peng was released. Nobody believed the e-mail was genuine, including the WTA (MORE HERE). “The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that it is safe,” said Simon, and was first warned that failure to clarify the matter could result in tournaments in China being removed from the WTA Tour calendar.

It was not until November 20 that photos and a video with Shuai Peng appeared on the web, as reported by ESPN. The player was supposed to be seen during a children’s tennis tournament, and then photos appeared where the 35-year-old wishes everyone a good weekend.

However, was the case closed? In no case. Steve Simon, like thousands of fans, the alleged evidence of Peng’s safety did not convince.

An unprecedented decision. They could lose a fortune

“While it is good to see her, it is unclear if she is free to make decisions and actions on her own, without coercion or outside interference. This film alone is insufficient. As stated from the beginning, I am still concerned about the health and safety of Peng Shuai and that the sexual assault allegation is being censored and swept under the rug. Our relationship with China is at a crossroads, “he wrote in a statement.

David Haggerty, president of the International Tennis Federation and member of the International Olympic Committee, spoke in a similar vein. “We will continue to look for direct involvement and confirmation from her that she is safe and doing well,” he said.

And since China has decided to remain silent, it was decided to suspend next year’s tournaments in this country and Hong Kong belonging to the PRC.

– I very much regret getting to this point. The tennis community in China and Hong Kong is full of great people with whom we have been working for many years. However, if China does not take the steps we have asked for, we must not put our players and staff at risk by organizing events in China, it argued.

The WTA has shown that it will not turn a blind eye to human rights violations, even if it means the loss of millions.

After all, Asia is a goldmine for the tennis authorities. This market brings gigantic money to their treasury, and the popularity of this discipline has only grown in recent years. China was to appear 11 times in next year’s WTA calendar. The WTA Finals competition was also held there in 2019. And if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, it would be this city, not Guadalajara, that would be hosting the world’s best tennis players this year.

Sakowicz-Kostecka: – We do not even realize what amounts are at stake here. China cooperates very closely with the WTA, as evidenced by the fact that Shenzhen was entrusted with the WTA Finals organization. Steve Simon’s statement is very significant, not a PR play, but a very strong signal to the still very authoritarian Chinese government that women’s rights come first in the WTA.

Swiatek points out one thing

The biggest star of Polish tennis, Iga Świątek, also spoke in the matter.

– The situation is not easy. There are many voices, many theories. I am trying to trust that the WTA will be up to the task and keep Shuai safe. I have noticed the approach of the organization that is doing its best to keep Shuai safe. I felt that the WTA was like a family that, in the most difficult moments for players and players, rose to the occasion, said champion Roland Garrosa from 2020.

What’s next? It cannot be ruled out that the tournaments in China and Hong Kong will eventually return to the tennis calendar. However, according to our expert, Joanna Sakowicz-Kostecka, there is only one condition.

– The man who hurt Shuai Peng should face the consequences. This is how I read the statement – if the matter is not cleared up, there will be no WTA tournaments.

The former tennis player does not rule out that the male side will also go the way of the women’s tennis authorities. It would undoubtedly be a huge support and another blow to the People’s Republic of China. – I am still wondering how the ATP will react, because there are already voices from players who sympathize with Shuai Peng. Really, I don’t remember that in any other sport.

Sakowicz-Kostecka admits that she was often very critical of the WTA authorities’ approach to tennis players and their rights. Now, however, he praises Steve Simon for his categorical approach to the subject.

– Many times I looked with disgust at the behavior of the WTA towards tennis players, for example with regard to their return to the game after their maternity leaves, which also affected me. It was Serena Williams that made people see their eyes and now every competitor has the right to return to the competition on the same terms as before. The Shuai Peng issue shows that the WTA has learned its lessons. Because she is a well-known tennis player, but not a world star and a global ambassador of this sport. And yet they all stood behind her.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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