Australian Open reverses censorship on T-shirts supporting Peng Shuai

Sydney, Australia, Jan 25 (EFE).- Tennis Australia said Tuesday that it reversed its decision to censor the use of shirts carrying a printed message concerning the whereabouts of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the country’s ongoing grand slam, adding that it would continue banning banners.

“We understand and appreciate that people have strong personal and political views on a number of issues,” said the country’s tennis federation and tournament organizer in a statement sent to Efe confirming the overturn.

It said however, that it would continue to prohibit “any element that compromises the safety and comfort of the fans,” referring to the use of banners attached to sticks.

The shirt censorship generated strong criticism in Australia and the rest of the world, including those of the former tennis world No. 1 Martina Navratilova, who described the organization of the Australian Open as “cowardly” the day before.

Tennis Australia on Sunday justified the censorship citing regulations prohibiting the display of political or commercial signs, after a Friday social media video showed a security guard confiscating T-shirts and a banner reading “Where is Peng Shuai?”

“Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being,” Tennis Australia said.

The 35-year-old Chinese tennis player, former doubles world No. 1, said in November through Weibo that 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, her vice president between 2012 and 2017, had raped her.

“You took me to your house and forced me,” Peng said in her post, which vanished about 20 minutes after her publication.

After this complaint, the tennis player went missing for two weeks, which triggered fears for her safety, and led the WTA to suspend all tournaments in China this year due to censorship and lack of transparency in that case.

Peng, who only received news from the Chinese state press, reappeared on Dec. 20 at an event in which he denied having made the accusations of sexual abuse and claimed to have been at home without any surveillance by the authorities while she was missing. EFE


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