China on Thursday declared its opposition to the “politicization of sport,” after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) suspended tournaments in the country over accusations of sexual assault by star Peng Shuai against a former vice-president. Prime Minister.
Unconvinced by Peng’s public appearances since the scandal began a month ago, the WTA has said it wants assurances about Peng’s well-being and has called for an investigation into the accusations made by the former issue. a world doubles against former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli. .
He also raised concerns about the safety of other players.
The position taken by the WTA comes at a sensitive time for China, as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics next February, and global rights groups and others have called for a boycott in protest against China’s human rights record.
Asked about the matter during a regular briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin did not directly comment on the WTA’s decision, but said China “opposes the politicization of sport.” .
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement Thursday that it had set up a second video call with Peng, after hosting the first at the end of last month.
“We share the same concern as many other people and organizations regarding the welfare and safety of Peng Shuai. This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team organized another video call with them, ”said the IOC.
Beijing has remained largely silent on the scandal, and authorities have blocked discussions on the subject on the heavily censored internet in China.
Instead, the Global Times, an English-language nationalist tabloid newspaper, published by the People’s Daily of the ruling Communist Party, attacked the WTA in an op-ed Thursday, accusing it of “introducing the politics in women’s tennis ”and to be a“ lever of Western public opinion ”.
The editorial, posted on the newspaper’s Twitter account – which is not available in China – called the WTA “traitors to the Olympic spirit” and said that “some Western forces urge a boycott of the Olympics winter of 2022 in Beijing ”.
The US-based tour’s decision to pull out of one of its biggest markets has been applauded by many tennis figures, but could cost the WTA hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast revenue. and sponsorship.
Peng’s fate has become a matter of international concern after a public absence of nearly three weeks after she publicly accused Zhang in a social media post published in early November.
Neither Zhang, who retired in 2018, nor the Chinese government has commented on Peng’s claim.
Peng appeared in mid-November at a dinner with friends and a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing, photos and videos posted by Chinese state media and tournament organizers showed.
On November 21, IOC President Thomas Bach had a 30-minute video call with Peng, who has competed in three Olympics, in which she told him she was safe.
But WTA general manager Steve Simon, who said the decision to suspend tournaments in China had the full support of the WTA board of directors, said they were not convinced all was well. with Peng.
Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin on Thursday used his personal Twitter account to accuse the WTA of “coercing” Peng into “supporting the West’s attack” on China.
Serving de facto as messengers to the outside world, Hu and other Global Times reporters were among the first to post pictures and videos of Peng’s appearances earlier this month.
The Global Times also cited a statement by the Chinese Tennis Association saying it will stand up for its rights and warning that the WTA should bear the legal consequences. CTA did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Appeals to the organizers of the China Open tournament have gone unanswered.
Research on the topic of the WTA suspension yielded no results Thursday on Twitter-like Weibo, and at least one post seen by Reuters that criticized the WTA’s move was subsequently deleted.
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