BIPOC Voices, Sports

Tennis player Peng Shuai challenges Chinese censorship

With the support of the tennis world.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Dec 10, 2021

To catch you up, famous Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared from the public eye for weeks after she stated that retired Chinese official Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her. After Shuai had stated this, she opened up a platform for other tennis stars and voices around the world (in support and concern) including Naomi Osaka. The famous tennis player hadn’t been seen in public since posting the allegation to Weibo, a Chinese social media platform on November 2.


“I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused,” Osaka wrote on Twitter. “Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok.” Shuai’s post was taken down from Weibo within 30 minutes, but screenshots and translations started circulating in China and abroad.


A full 12 days later, on November 14 to be exact, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) released a statement in support, saying:

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.” The WTA attempted to contact her several times and failed each time. To prove their sincereness, the Women’s Tennis Association pulled out of further events held in China (10 were scheduled for next year), including the WTA Finals tournament, staying they were at “a crossroads” with China, and that it’s “bigger than business.”


Notable tennis players took to her as well with Serena Williams tweeting: “I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time.”


Since then, it’s been rumored that Peng Shuai virtually met with the International Olympic Committee President on November 21 confirming she is safe and would appreciate her privacy being respected during this time. However, the chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association had other thoughts, saying: “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.”


Currently, Shuai is not due to make any more public appearances. The tennis world continues to speak out about censorship and work towards a world where women are heard and taken seriously.


In related news, Squid Game actually addresses some very real issues in South Korea.


Photo via Monika Graff/UPI