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26 Apr 2022

WTA pressures China over Peng Shuai following Safeguard Defenders briefing

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) will not return to China this year while the tour seeks a resolution with China over the Peng Shuai case, WTA CEO Steve Simon confirmed to CNN.
The WTA's annual board meeting on 24 March confirmed the prior decision by the WTA leadership to suspend activities in China, as it continues to press the Chinese government to provide reliable information about the status of Peng Shuai following her disappearance and subsequent re-appearance in obviously stage-managed appearances. Peng Shuai has not been heard or seen since the latest of these managed appearances during the Beijing Olympics.
Safeguard Defenders is grateful for the WTA’s invite to present extensive briefings on the case of Peng, the widespread use of enforced disappearances (house arrests and RSDL) and stage-managed appearances - such as forced TV confessions - as well as the growing crackdown on the #MeToo and feminist movement in China to the WTA leadership in private, and at their annual board meeting.
We reiterate that the WTA's actions were and remain of paramount importance to safeguard Peng's personal safety. Without exception, every single of the (too) numerous exit interviews conducted with victims of China’s various forms of illegal custody and disappearance over the course of the past ten years confirms that attention and pressure bring safety to the victims in custody or under control.
We applaud and thank the WTA for standing up for the integrity of their athletes and for not shying away from its responsibility to exert pressure on the Chinese government and continuing to demand a full and transparent investigation into Peng Shuai’s allegations of sexual abuse and her continued disappearance.
This willingness to use their position - stating that "We will stay resolute. We do hope to be back there in 2023 with the resolution that shows progress was made in the space. That's a victory for the world if we can accomplish that." - further represents a sign of encouragement and hope for the Chinese feminist movement which is facing exceptional hardship following the disappearance of Huang Xueqin in September 2021.
Since her arrest, about 70 of Xueqin’s friends and fellow feminists have been continuously summoned, intimidated and interrogated by the police, and forced to sign false confessions alleging the two of having partaken in so-called training activities to “subvert state power”.
While Peng Shuai’s disappearance from public view and coerced statements following her accusations of sexual abuse by Zhang Gaoli have rightfully raised concern across the globe, the continuous crackdown on rights activists and feminists within the People’s Republic of China remains a little-known issue.
The WTA’s stance sheds a light also on their fate and sets an example for organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, which has and continues to be complicit in the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of Peng Shuai’s allegations, disappearance and staged appearances. The IOC and Ethics Chair Ban Ki Moon are yet to respond to our formal complaint over its blatant violation of its own Ethics Code.