Conversely, Peng Shuai t-shirts will be allowed at the Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Restrictions that saw a spectator removed for wearing a t-shirt supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai at the Australian Open have been revised after international backlash.

With reports of activists planning to distribute hundreds of shirts with the question “Where is Peng Shuai?” in time for Saturday’s women’s final, the message shouldn’t be hard to find.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told The Associated Press that it would be okay for people to wear the shirts at Melbourne Park, as long as they don’t congregate in large groups or cause no problems to other viewers.

“If they want to do that, that’s fine,” Tiley said in a phone interview. But “if someone comes on site with the express intention of disturbing the comfort and safety of our fans, they are not welcome.

“We can’t sell tickets in advance and make people come in and not feel safe because there’s a large group of people using (the tournament) as a platform to marry their points. of view on any subject.”

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Footage released over the weekend showed security guards and police asking a fan to remove a shirt that featured an image of Peng on the front and “Where is Peng Shuai?” at the back drew widespread condemnation, with some critics describing her as cowardly.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova, a three-time Australian Open singles champion, described him on Twitter as “pathetic”.

Tennis Australia initially responded by saying the clothing breached its ‘political messages’ rule.

“To ensure the Australian Open remains a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for all, it has long been our policy not to allow commercial or political banners, signs or apparel,” organizers said in a statement. communicated.

In a later statement, Tennis Australia said it understood “people have strong personal and political opinions on a range of issues”.

“Peng Shuai’s safety is our main concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to do all we can to ensure her well-being,” the statement read, referring to the Women’s Tennis Association. “Our work is continuing and going through the appropriate channels.”

Tiley said security personnel were following tournament protocols over the weekend but, after a review, the woman involved in the incident would be asked to return to the tournament as she was not supposed to try to disrupt.

China drew international criticism after Peng’s near total disappearance. She wrote in a social media post in November that she had been sexually assaulted by a former senior ruling Communist Party official.

His accusation against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli briefly appeared on his Weibo-verified social media in early November before being quickly taken down. Screenshots of the post were shared on the internet, sparking widespread concern over Peng’s safety.

After the display, the three-time Olympian and former doubles champion appeared standing next to a tennis court in Beijing, waving and signing oversized commemorative tennis balls for children. The foreign branch of state television also released a statement in English attributed to Peng that withdrew his accusation against Zhang.

But WTA chief executive Steve Simon questioned the legitimacy of the emailed statement, while others said it only heightened their concerns about his safety.

The WTA has repeatedly called on China to investigate the 35-year-old Peng’s accusations and allow tennis officials to communicate directly with her.

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