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Women’s tennis tour ends China boycott started to support Peng Shuai

‘After 16 months of suspended tennis competition in China and sustained efforts at achieving our original requests, the situation has shown no sign of changing,’ the WTA said. ‘We have concluded we will never fully secure those goals, and it will be our players and tournaments who ultimately will be paying an extraordinary price for their sacrifices. 

‘For these reasons, the WTA is lifting its suspension of the operation of tournaments in the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’) and will resume tournaments in China this September.’

Why did the WTA boycott China?

The WTA suspended play in China in December 2021 after Shuai, a former doubles No. 1 player and three-time Olympian, reported that she was sexually assaulted by a high-ranking official in the Chinese government. Shuai shared the story on Instagram that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex.

She went missing after making the post, which was quickly taken down. On Nov. 21, she had a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach where she reported that she was safe at her home in Beijing, but wished to have her privacy respected, according to the IOC.

In removing itself from play in China, the WTA demanded that a thorough investigation of her claims was conducted and that it was given the opportunity to speak to Shuai.

Did the WTA get a resolution?

No and yes. There was never an investigation into the reports of sexual assault — Shuai later denied her claims and has since appeared representing China at the 2022 Beijing Olympic games — and Zhang was never disciplined. He made a public appearance in October at the 20th Communist Party Congress. A member of the WTA has not met with Shuai personally. But in its statement, the organization said it had sufficient evidence to believe that she was safe.

‘We have been in touch with people close to Peng and are assured she is living safely with her family in Beijing,’ it said. ‘We also have received assurances that WTA players and staff operating in China will be safe and protected while in the country. The WTA takes this commitment seriously and will hold all parties responsible.’

Why is the WTA returning to China?

There were 10 WTA scheduled events on the tour in 2019, including the season opener Shenzhen Open and the China Open in Beijing. These events brought in millions of dollars.

Besides the financial impact, the WTA pointed out its desire to continue making connections with tennis fans in China and creating opportunities for players in the country.

‘Through our time and commitment in China over the past 20 years, the WTA has made significant progress in creating a pathway and opportunity for women athletes to pursue tennis as a career and for tennis to become a focus of recreational activity in the country,’ the statement said. ‘With the suspension, we forfeited our ability to provide women in the region with opportunities to advance professionally through tennis and be role models for future generations.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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