MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Open fans have been told by security to remove T-shirts bearing the slogan “Where is Peng Shuai?” which refers to the continued uncertainty surrounding the wellbeing and whereabouts of the former Chinese tennis player.
In November, Peng, the former world number 14 singles player and a member of a number one doubles tandem, took to the social media platform Weibo and accused Chinese Communist Party member Zhang Gaoli of the pushed to have sex. In the weeks following the publication, Peng disappeared from social media, raising concerns about his safety and his ability to communicate freely with the rest of the world.
On Saturday, a TikTok user uploaded a video in which Australian Open fans were approached by security and asked to remove the shirts with the slogan on them. A banner was also seen in the hands of a member of security.
In the video, police later arrived at the scene and confirmed the position of the security team. An officer is heard saying: “The Australian Open has a rule that you can’t have political slogans…it’s a rule that it’s an entry requirement.
“Tennis Australia makes the rules, and it doesn’t matter what you say – and I’m not saying you can’t have those opinions – but I’m saying Tennis Australia makes the rules here.
“[Security is] authorized to confiscate the shirts and the banner.”
The video received wide attention on the Reddit publishing platform and has been viewed 52,000 times on TikTok.
In a statement provided to ESPN by Tennis Australia, the organization said its “primary concern” was Peng Shuai’s safety, but added that fans are not permitted to bring onto the court or display any political statements during of the tournament.
“Our entry requirements do not allow commercial or political clothing, banners or signs,” a spokesperson said. “Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to gain more clarity on his situation and will do everything we can to ensure his well-being.”
Throughout the Australian Open, the media was allowed to ask the players about the current situation with Peng at press conferences, and prominent players continued to express concern for Peng’s well-being. the former player.
Last Wednesday, four-time grand prize winner Naomi Osaka said it was important to keep asking questions and to keep Peng’s safety and whereabouts in mind, as she “would like people to take care of me as well. “.
“I imagine myself in his place, and in that way it’s kind of scary,” Osaka said last week. “You kind of want to lend your voice and you want people to, you know, ask the questions.”
Two-time Australian Open winner and WTA Player Council member Victoria Azarenka said the situation remained “unfortunate”.
“There has not been much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai, although from our side we will continue to make every effort to ensure that she is safe, that she feels safe. comfortable,” Azarenka said.