The WTA said Wednesday that it is suspending all tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
WTA Chief Executive Officer Steve Simon said he couldn't ask players to compete in China during the current climate. Peng's safety has been of great concern since she recently spoke out and made sexual assault allegations against a high-ranking Chinese politician.
"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," Simon said in a statement. "Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022."
Peng, a two-time Grand Slam champion in doubles play, wasn't seen for more than two weeks after accusing former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of an assault that occurred about three years ago.
"She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway," Simon said. "I admire her strength and courage."
"Since then, Peng's message has been removed from the internet and discussion of this serious issue has been censored in China. Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner.
"Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation -- without censorship -- into Peng Shuai's sexual assault accusation."
Simon said the suspension also effects tournaments held in Hong Kong.
The crisis continues to heat up with the Winter Olympics set to begin in Beijing on Feb. 4.
Peng has won two singles titles and 23 doubles crowns during her career. She reached No. 1 in doubles in 2014 and her highest singles ranking was No. 14 in 2011.
She won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
--Field Level Media