Aside from a few concerning appearances over the last year, tennis star Peng Shuai has largely disappeared and those in and around the world of tennis continue to fear for her safety and freedom.
Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and its security, is not amongst those who are concerned.
If anything, Wimbledon is turning a blind eye to Shuai’s disappearance, preferring forced silence over an opportunity to speak up on tennis’ biggest stage. The All England Club’s inexcusable actions were on full display Monday when security insisted that activists wearing Where is Peng Shuai? shirts who were walking the grounds of Wimbledon, not speak about Shuai to other spectators.
Free speech, this is not.
Along with attempting to silence the activists – four men representing Free Tibet, a human rights organization – also had their belongings searched and were warned that if additional Shuai supporters wearing the same attire were spotted there would be a “problem.”
What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH? https://t.co/RRsTVhHMWd
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) July 4, 2022
OutKick’s Meg Turner detailed the troubling circumstances surrounding Shuai’s disappearance last year. She noted how the former number one doubles player vanished after accusing China’s former vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli , of sexual abuse.
Shuai made the sexual abuse allegation via Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. After her accusation and corresponding disappearance, the Weibo post she penned, along with her other recent social media posts, were wiped clean.
After she had gone silent for more than a month, Shuai retracted her previous allegations in a video shared by Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese newspaper. “First of all, I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me,” Shuai said within the video. “I need to emphasize this point very clearly.”
She would later state that she was living in Beijing without restrictions.
It’s been feared by many that her shared video and comments were staged and she was forced into the retraction by the overpowering Chinese government.
Shuai has not been seen or heard from publicly since December. Free Tibet members have been consistent in their support of Shuai and their request for her safety and freedom. They sported the same Where is Peng Shuai? t-shirts during the Australian Open earlier this year.
Upon seeing their shirts and learning of Wimbledon’s inexcusable actions towards them, tennis great Martina Navratilova tweeted: “What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH?
Will Hoyles, one of the Free Tibet representatives, explained the group’s stance and Wimbledon’s reaction in an interview with the Telegraph Sport:
“We were peacefully walking around the grounds, occasionally talking to people about Peng Shuai.
He added: “We were getting huge support from people around the grounds. At one point security staff started questioning us and when we said we were just talking to people she told us not to approach people and that Wimbledon wants to remain politically neutral.
“Peng Shuai is still not free and WTA agrees. Wimbledon should be speaking out for her release and not trying to stop tennis fans discussing human rights.”
A Wimbledon spokesperson issued the following statement on Monday: “We can confirm that four guests were approached today by security whilst walking outside No. 1 Court. These individuals are now enjoying their day with us and continue to be able to wear their T-shirts. Like much of the tennis community and people around the world more broadly, we remain very concerned for Peng Shuai and we continue to support the WTA’s efforts.”
They sure do have a funny way of showing it.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF