Human rights activists behind “Where is Peng Shuai?” The shirts have welcomed Tennis Australia’s decision to allow fans to wear slogan shirts at the Australian Open, following backlash over the Grand Slam’s controversial stance.
The change of course followed a video that surfaced on Sunday of security personnel ordering spectators to remove their jerseys and a banner in support of the Chinese player at Melbourne Park.
It prompted tennis legend Martina Navratilova to call the move “pathetic”.
Peng, the former world number one in doubles, is absent from Melbourne with fears for her well-being after she alleged online in November that a former Chinese vice-premier had “forced” her to have sex for a year. -out of relationship
Her accusation was quickly censored and the 36-year-old was not heard from for almost three weeks, before she reappeared in public in China. However, concerns remain about whether or not she is free.
Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open, on Monday reiterated its long-standing policy of “not allowing banners, signs or clothing that is commercial or political.”
But with the pressure mounting, tournament boss Craig Tiley said on Tuesday that “fans at the Australian Open can wear ‘Where’s Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts as long as they are peaceful,” adding that security would make assessments on a case-by-case basis. .
“It’s all gotten a little bit lost in translation from some people who aren’t here and don’t really know the full view. The situation in the last couple of days is that some people came with a banner on two big poles and we can’t allow that. If you come to watch tennis, that’s fine, but we can’t allow anyone to cause an interruption at the end of the day.”
A GoFundMe page set up to raise money to print more t-shirts reached its goal of €6,295 in two days, and activists pledged to make them available to anyone who wants to wear them.
The loosening of the policy came as local media quoted human rights experts as saying that Tennis Australia’s stance could be illegal.
“There appears to be no proper basis for asking an attendee to remove a t-shirt that highlights a human rights issue,” attorney Michael Stanton revealed.
The Australian government also weighed in with Defense Minister Peter Dutton, saying Peng’s situation is “deeply worrying and I think we should talk about these issues.”
“I would cheer not just celebrities but tennis organizations including Tennis Australia,” he added.
“We don’t want to drag sport into politics, but this is not a political issue, this is a human rights issue about the treatment of a young woman who claims she has been sexually assaulted.”
The Women’s Tennis Association has been widely praised for its stance on Peng, demanding to hear from her directly and suspending tournaments in China.
The top players at the Australian Open have said on several occasions that they are still waiting to hear from Peng so they can be sure of her safety.
Tiley reiterated that “our primary concern is the well-being of Peng Shuai and we have worked closely with the WTA.”
“We have staff in China and we used our resources to help locate where she was at the beginning. Since then, she has come out and made some statements. We encourage her to have direct conversations,” he added.
“The most appropriate people to do that is the WTA.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism