International women’s tennis tournaments will not be returning to China until the WTA is satisfied with the resolution to the Peng Shuai situation, the association told Reuters this week. The case involves allegations the Chinese tennis star made about how she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader. Peng later denied making the accusation.
The WTA has reportedly received confirmation that “Peng is safe and comfortable,” but it has yet to met with the former doubles world No. 1.
A provisional 2023 tournament calendar released late last year with the the WTA’s schedule up to September. That schedule did not include any events in China.
“There has not been any change in the WTA position on a return to China and we have only confirmed our 2023 calendar through US Open,” the WTA said in a statement. “A return to the region will require a resolution to the Peng situation in which she took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader.
“As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation.”
It all started in Nov. 2, 2021, when a social media account belonging to Peng published a post that accused Zhang Gaoli, a former leader within China’s Communist party, of sexually assaulting her.
“I was so scared that afternoon … I never gave consent, crying the entire time,” read the post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Although it did not stay up very long, the post went viral and made headlines in the tennis world. The accusation led the WTA to suspend tournaments in China for safety concerns.
A month after the post, Peng said in an interview that nobody sexually assaulted her and that she wanted to “emphasize this point very clearly.”
Peng was not seen in public for over two weeks after making the initial accusation, which raised concerns in the tennis world and even led the White House, United Nations and European Union to call for investigations into her allegations and disappearance.
The Guardian reported a week ago that activists were planning on wearing “Where is Peng Shuai” shirts at this year’s Australian Open. During last year’s tournament, officials confiscated similar shirts, citing a ban on “commercial or political” material, although that decision was later reversed.
Click here for the full CBS Sports explainer on the Peng Shuai situation.