Peng Shai, a Chinese top official accused of sexual assault, posted a message on November 2, 2021. The Women’s Tennis Association knew that Peng Shai’s message needed to be heard and taken seriously. WTA players, as well as women all over the globe, should receive nothing less.

Peng Shuai showed that speaking up is important, especially in the face of sexual assault and when people with power are involved. Peng wrote in her blog, “Even though it’s like an egg striking a rock or if you are like a moth attracted to the flame inviting self-destruction,” she would tell the truth. She understood the risks that she was in for, and she made it public. Her strength and bravery are admirable.

Peng has since been taken off the internet, and any discussion about this grave issue is censored. Chinese officials will be given an opportunity to stop the censorship, verify that Peng can speak freely without being intimidated or interfered with, and to conduct fair and transparent investigations into the allegations of sexual assault. 

This very serious problem has been ignored by China’s leadership. We now know exactly where Peng is. However, I am skeptical that Peng is truly free, secure, and isn’t subject to intimidation, coercion, and censorship. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.

All of these are unacceptable, and they cannot become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback. The WTA and its members cannot and will not be affected by this.

With the support of the WTA Board of Directors and as a result, I have decided to suspend all WTA tournaments held in China including Hong Kong. 

It is difficult for me to believe that I could ask my athletes to take part in these events when Peng Shuai cannot communicate openly and was apparently forced to refute her accusation of sexual assault. Amidst the present state of affairs, I’m also concerned about what the consequences could be for our staff and players if events were held in China 2022.

The WTA’s position in this area has been met with overwhelming international support. Peng, as well as many other women worldwide, needs to be protected even more. It’s now more important than ever that we speak out. WTA will protect all its members. While we are doing so, I believe leaders from around the globe will continue speaking out for Peng and other women regardless of the financial consequences.

It is a very sad day. There are many great tennis players in China and Hong Kong, with whom I have shared many years of friendship. These people should be proud for their successes, hospitality, and achievements. We cannot hold events in China unless China follows the steps that we ask. China’s top leaders are leaving the WTA without any choice. It is my hope that the Chinese authorities will listen to our pleas and take legal steps to address this matter.