The State Department said it supports the Women’s Tennis Association against Beijing Peng Shuai, China’s top tennis player who went missing for weeks after she publicly denounced a retired senior Chinese official for sexual assault.
On December 1, the WTA suspended all matches in mainland China and Hong Kong indefinitely over concerns for Peng, making him the first sports body to challenge the Chinese communist regime on human rights. Since China is the WTA’s largest market, the suspension could cost the organization hundreds of millions of broadcasts and sponsorships.
“We applaud the WTA for its decision of principle,” a State Department spokesman told The Epoch Times.
“American businesses operating in the PRC are helping to shape the relationship between the United States and China, and we believe it is important that they remain capable of speaking out in support of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression,” the spokesman said.
Neither Zhang Gaoli, the former deputy prime minister whom Peng accused, nor Chinese officials have made public comments on her allegations of sexual assault.
Peng has not been seen for nearly three weeks after she detailed her allegations of a quickly deleted post on her verified social media account. Following the global protest in the tennis world, Peng appeared in a series of videos released by Chinese state media, followed by a video call with the International Olympic Committee, after which the IOC quoted Peng as saying she was “safe and sound.” “
CGTN, the Chinese state-run broadcaster in English, also attributed to Peng a screenshot of an email in which she refuted her claims and said “everything is fine.”
“We are closely monitoring the situation around Peng Shuai. We have not seen or heard anything that could allay our fears about her well-being, ”said a spokesman for the State Department.
The spokesman added that the United States will continue to support efforts to prosecute sexual assault and uphold freedom of expression – “especially in light of the PRC government’s intolerance of criticism and suppression of the voice of those who speak out.”
It is unclear if other major sports leagues will follow the WTA lead and ditch their share of the profits in China.
In a statement released the day after the WTA announcement, the Tennis Professionals Association said it remained seriously concerned about Pen’s situation and called for a “line of open, direct communication between the player and the WTA,” but made it clear that it would not cancel the event. …
“We know that sport can have a positive impact on society and in general we believe that a global presence gives us the best chance to create opportunities and have an impact,” said ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.
The IOC, which described its efforts as a campaign of “quiet diplomacy”, said on December 2 that it had a second meeting with Peng. The IOC said it “offered full support” to Peng and made an appointment in January.
“There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety,” the statement said, adding that they “took a very humane and personal approach to her situation.”
The statement does not explicitly mention Peng’s allegations of sexual abuse, but describes only as “the difficult situation she is in.” The IOC also released no video, transcript of the teleconference, or details of how it was organized.