Where is Peng Shuai? Tennis Australia slammed Luzhou Laojiao for silence, conflict of interest

Tennis Australia was blown to pieces for completely ignoring Peng Shuai’s plight as human rights researchers revealed new concerns for the Chinese tennis star.

A senior Human Rights Watch researcher has urged Tennis Australia to use its Grand Slam spotlight to advocate for the “not free” Peng Shuai.

Peng, once world No. 14, is believed to have disappeared in November 2021 after he accused retired Chinese Communist Party Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a social media post.

Peng performed in a controlled manner in 2022 after the “Where is Peng Shuai?” movement and has since denied making the allegations.

The Women’s Tennis Association, which has suspended all events in China, is confident Peng is “safe and comfortable” but admits they still have progress to make in their attempt to meet with her privately – their ultimatum for the return to the lucrative market.

Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said from New York that Peng’s recent performances were coerced and that TA should use the Australian Open spotlight to call for her release.

“Peng has not only lost her freedom, but has also been repeatedly forced into public appearances, where she has to act as if she is happy and free,” Ms. Wang said.

“Many prominent women, including female athletes around the world, have shared their ‘MeToo’ (campaign against sexual assault) story, but few are paying the price Peng is paying.

“Tennis Australia should follow the example of the WTA and stand up for Peng Shuai and demand their true freedom.

“Peng Shuai is not free because the political environment in China dictates that anyone who has made such an allegation against such a high-ranking official cannot truly be free.”

TA’s promotion of same-sex pride, Aboriginal celebrations and disability inclusion is pervasive at the Australian Open, but her relationship with Peng Shuai activism has been rocky.

Last year, tournament security tried to ban activists from wearing “Where’s Peng Shuai?” t-shirts in a political move that was reversed after widespread backlash.

To make matters worse for TA, one of its main sponsors, Luzhou Laojiao, is a Chinese distillery company. One of the courses at the Australian Open is named 1573 after the year the company was founded.

When asked Tuesday whether the lucrative sponsorship represented a conflict of interest amid calls to champion Peng, TA didn’t respond. The contract expires in June.

A WTA official said the governing body maintained its tough stance on returning to China, despite reports that tournaments would resume there at the end of this season.

“We have called for a formal investigation into the allegations,” the WTA said.

“We have received confirmation that Peng is safe and well, but we have not yet met with her in person.

“We continue to stand by our position and our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai and the WTA continues to work towards a solution.

“While we have always indicated that we hope to be able to host WTA events in the region again, we will not compromise our founding principles to do so.”

Chinese player Qinwen Zhang was asked by an activist on the sidelines at the start of the tournament, “Where’s Peng Shuai?” and quietly replied, “I don’t know.”

Drew Pavlou, an Australian anti-CCP activist, printed the new “Where’s Peng Shuai?” T-shirts for this year’s tournament, which feature Chinese President Xi Jinping with “Dictator” over his head.

The shirts have not yet been seen at Melbourne Park.

Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Tennis Australia whipped for ignoring Peng Shuai issue

https://www.codesports.com.au/tennis/australian-open-2023-tennis-australia-lashed-for-ignoring-peng-shuai-issue/news-story/b7557b7159fccd57b3f8080ca276304f?nk=34c176a601cf583240def8a9cd117ab4-1674550508 Where is Peng Shuai? Tennis Australia slammed Luzhou Laojiao for silence, conflict of interest

Ryan Sederquist

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