Australian Open organizers caused outrage when they demanded that tennis fans remove their “Where is Peng Shuai” t-shirts. However, event officials refused to change their provocative stance. 

Security staff ordered spectators Sunday to get rid of shirts, and one banner supporting the Chinese player at Melbourne Park. 

Tennis players have criticised the move, with French star Nicolas Mahut accusing the organisers of bowing to corporate sponsorship from China after it emerged that Tennis Australia has a lucrative £53million ($100million) sponsorship deal with a Chinese liquor company.   

Peng is not present at the Grand Slam. There are concerns for her safety after Peng claimed online that she was ‘forced into’ sex in China by Zhang Gaoli, a former vice-premier. This claim stemmed from a long-running relationship.  

The allegation of her was swiftly censored. For nearly three weeks the 36-yearold wasn’t heard from, until she reappeared in China. There are questions as to her freedom. 

Last month, she stated that no one had ever accused her of sexually assaulting anyone and that the social media posting she made was misunderstood. 

An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt expressing welfare concerns for tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape

A fan was told to remove their T-shirt

After being accused of rape by a Chinese senior politician, an Australian Open fan was forced to remove the shirt.

Peng Shuai (pictured in 2020), former doubles world number one, is absent from the Grand Slam and there are fears for her wellbeing after she alleged online in November that she had been 'forced' into sex by Chinese former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli during a years-long on-and-off relationship

Peng Shuai (pictured 2020), the former world number one for doubles, has been absent from Grand Slam. She claimed that Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to sex in a long-running relationship.

On Sunday, footage emerged of security guards and police demanding spectators remove their ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ T-shirts at the grand slam over the weekend. 

One man, who filmed a security asking a woman to remove the shirt, can be heard asking the guard ‘what do you suggest she wear?’

The guard asked the man not to answer the question but instead demanded that he remove another similar shirt. 

The police officer approaches the couple and tells them that they are not allowed to bring ‘political slogans’ into the tournament.

The male activist replies, “This isn’t a political message.”

“This does not mean you should vote Labour or the Liberal party. The Women’s Tennis Association spoke out in support of this female tennis player. Simply put, we are [reiterating]What the WTA says. 

According to the police, he believed what they were saying. However, ‘Tennis Australia’ sets the rules. 

Despite the fact that you may not have these views, TA can confiscate your shirts, and banners,’ said the officers, just before the video cut out.

Tennis stars decried the ban on fans wearing their “Where is Peng Shuai” t-shirts, calling it ‘pathetic”. However, organizers insisted that they would not change their position. 

“That’s just insane. The WTA stands pretty much alone on this,’ tennis legend and 18-time Grand Slam winner Martina Navratilova tweeted on Sunday on the t-shirt ban, using the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai.   

A fan was told to remove their t-shirt

Security guards and police demanding spectators remove their 'Where is Peng Shuai' T-shirts

Security guards and officers demanded that the spectators at Sunday’s grand slam remove their T-shirts stating “Where is Peng Shuai?”

WTA, the Women’s Tennis Association has received widespread praise for its position on Peng. It demanded to hear directly from Peng and suspended all tournaments in China.

Navratilova accused Tennis Australia of giving into China and placing sponsorship money ahead of human rights, with Chinese distillery Luzhou Laojiao being one of the Australian Open’s leading sponsors.  

She said, “I find it really, truly cowardly,” on U.S.-based Tennis Channel. “I don’t think they have the right idea about that. This is not an assertion of political power, it is a declaration for human rights.

“Tennis Australia is really giving in on this matter… and letting China dictate their actions at their Slam.” It just seems weak to me. 

Nicolas Mahut from France, who lost in Melbourne’s first round of doubles, said on Twitter that organizers had been influenced by corporate sponsorship.

What’s the matter? You lack courage! He wrote, “What if your Chinese sponsors were not there?” 

Sponsors of this year’s inaugural Grand Slam are Luzhu Laojiao, a Chinese distillery, and De Rucci (a Chinese mattress manufacturer). 

Luzhou Laojiao has signed one of the most significant deals in the history of the tournament. In fact, the Open renamed a Melbourne Park court 1573 Arena to honour one of Luzhou’s trademark products. 

French tennis player Nicolas Mahut - famous for playing in the longest ever tennis match at Wimbledon in 2010 - accused Australian Open organisers of 'lacking courage'. The director of New York-based Human Rights Watch was also critical

French tennis star Nicolas Mahut, who is well-known for his participation in Wimbledon’s longest tennis match in 2010, has accused the Australian Open organizers of lacking courage. New York-based Human Rights Watch Director was also critical

Human Rights Watch is also mentioned in the sponsorship agreement.

Tennis Australia prohibits spectators attending the Australian Open wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” Kenneth Roth, director of HRW, tweeted that T-shirts were prohibited by Tennis Australia.

“The Australian Open has a major commercial partner in China, Guojiao 1573,” said Guojiao.

The southern Chinese company took over advertising space from Victorian winemaking giant Jacob’s Creek  – the tournament’s previous partner.

Luzhou Laojiao is known for its liquors made from Baijiu –  a Chinese grain-based spirit dubbed ‘firewater’ for its sharp and powerful odour.



Tennis Australia (the organizer of the Australian Open) reiterated Monday that “Peng Shuai’s safety is our first concern.”

However, it insisted on ‘not allowing commercial signs, banners, or clothing that’s political or commercial’. It also stated that its longstanding policy will continue to apply to items that could compromise safety and comfort for AO fans.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has been widely praised for its stance on Peng, demanding to hear from her directly and suspending tournaments in China

 The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has been widely praised for its stance on Peng, demanding to hear from her directly and suspending tournaments in China

TA confirmed that its policy regarding Melbourne Park will be enforced by security personnel. 

A spokesperson said that they understood and appreciated people’s strong political and personal views.

“We will continue to collaborate with the WTA, the international tennis community and to make sure she (Peng) is well-being. Our efforts are ongoing through the right channels.

“Today we reiterate our strong support to WTA, and we extend that to all of the players.

In order to be sure of Peng’s safety, leading players in the Australian Open said on multiple occasions they still hoped that Peng would contact them.  


A GoFundMe page set up to raise money to print more T-shirts reached its AUD$10,000 (£5,295) goal within two days, with activists pledging to make them available to whoever wants to wear them.

Max Mok, activist for ABC said that he was printing 1000 t-shirts so the broadcaster ABC can determine how many match-goers can be stopped.

China’s Foreign Ministry responded to questions about the topic at its daily press conference. It stated it “has always opposed the politicalization of sports which is unpopular, and will not succeed”. 

Peng is now in fear after she said last month that she had not accused China’s vice prime minister of sexual assault. This was her first interview since the allegations became public.  

Peng Shuai

Zhang Gaoli

Tennis star Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, Former Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, of rape two weeks ago and has not been seen since

Speaking to Singaporean news outlet Lianhe Zaobao, Peng – who vanished for three weeks and had her social media censored following the claim – said: ‘I need to stress one point that is extremely important – I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me. This point must be stressed.

She stated that she was not responsible for the removal of her Weibo post. 

Peng stated in the video, “people have many misunderstandings” about Peng’s post on Weibo (a Chinese social media platform) which was regularly monitored by China’s communist government. She was not specific.

Also, she said that she was living in Beijing at her own expense. Zhang Gaoli, whom she claimed was abusing her, wasn’t mentioned. 

The World Tennis Association, which was celebrated for suspending Chinese women’s tennis in China after Peng disappeared, stated that the association was certain Peng was being censored. Peng was not allowed to talk freely. 

The spokesman stated that they remain firm in their call for an independent, fair and transparent investigation without any censorship into her sexual assault allegation.

Peng first made headlines on November 2 when she uploaded a lengthy post to her personal Weibo account – China’s version of Facebook – accusing Zhang of coercing her into sex during a years-long affair.  

Peng, who is married to Zhang, revealed in the blog that they had been involved in an off-and-on affair since 2011, when Peng met Zhang in Tianjin. Zhang was the premier of the city at the time.

It is detailed how Peng was able to have a one-time sex with Zhang in that same year.

He allegedly revived the relationship in 2018, after his retirement as a politician. Peng was invited to dinner by Peng with his wife, after which Peng pressured Peng to have sex. 

Peng remembers “crying” and refusing Zhang’s advances before finally relenting. 

Peng alleges that Peng started an affair lasting three years, which Peng called ‘unpleasant’.

Zhang demanded that it be kept secret, and she admitted in the post that there was no proof of her affair.

Her post concluded: ‘You’ve said you are not afraid. “But even as an egg tossing at a stone, or a moth trying to ignite a fire for self-destruction,” I’ll tell the truth with you.

Zhang was a vice-premier in Beijing and served on the ruling party’s powerful seven-member standing committee of the political bureau.

While the post was deleted quickly from her Weibo verified account within twenty minutes, screenshots quickly circulated of the shocking accusation despite this. Topic being blocked from discussing China’s highly censored Internet.