The 35-year-old tennis player vanished from the public eye after accusing China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse.
In response to international calls for information on her whereabouts, Chinese state media released an email claiming to be from Shuai. The email alleged that “everything is fine” and added that her allegations of sexual abuse were “not true”.
After receiving widespread scepticism over the email’s authenticity, a video call was arranged between Shuai and Thomas Bach – the president of the International Olympic Committee. During the conversation, Shuai reiterated that she was “safe and well”.
Now in a new development, the WTA has announced a suspension to all Chinese tennis tournaments.
“With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,” said the WTA chairman, Steve Simon, in a statement.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”
Simon also reiterated the values of the organisation and said that continuing to play in China would diminish the seriousness of sexual abuse.
“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback.”
He added, “I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”