A man who went to watch a tennis match at the Australian Open filmed a security guard asking a woman to take off a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘where is Peng Shuai’ in reference to the Chinese tennis player who made headlines for disappearing after reporting sexual abuse by a former top Chinese Communist Party official.
In the video that was uploaded to social media on Saturday, January 22, a man can be seen talking to a security guard who had asked a woman to remove the T-shirt bearing the slogan, which was banned by the Australian Tennis organization.
“What do you suggest she wear?” the man asks the security guard, pointing out that the woman had nothing on under the T-shirt.
The guard notices that the man who is filming, also has a similar T-shirt and turns to him and tells him that he also has to take it off.
At that moment, the man who is filming calls who appears to be his lawyer, and a policeman approaches the scene.
The policemen ask the woman to take off her backpack so that they can see the message on her T-shirt. The woman shows her back with the phrase ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ on the front of the T-shirt is the picture of the Chinese tennis player.
At this point the policeman tells them that ‘political messages’ cannot be displayed at the event.
This isn’t a political message,” replies the lawyer who was speaking on the cell phone speakerphone. “This isn’t saying vote for the Liberal or Labour party. This is a female tennis player who is being persecuted and the Women’s Tennis Association has spoken out for her. We are simply [reiterating] what the WTA is saying.”
The policeman replies that he understands but that the rules are set by the organizer, Tennis Australia.
“I’m not saying you are not allowed to have those views, but TA is allowed to confiscate your shirts and the banner,” the cop explains and then the video cuts off.
Peng Shuai made headlines in November last year after posting on her Weibo account, a Chinese social network, an extensive allegation of sexual abuse against Zhang Guoli, a former vice premier of Beijing.
Her account was immediately suspended, but the allegation went viral.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) initially asked for proof that Peng Shuai was safe and sound.
Chinese state media began publishing photos and videos of Peng Shuai ‘happy’ but international pressure took them as propaganda for the Chinese regime.
Finally, the WTA cancelled all its tournaments in China in retaliation.
The decision was praised by activists and personalities around the world.
However, Peng Shuai appeared in a video later assuring everyone that people ‘misunderstood’ her post and that she never meant to report any sexual abuse.
It is believed that the tennis player was forced by Chinese authorities to lie to dispel international pressure.
The director of the renowned non-profit organization Human Rights Watch, used his Twitter account to point out that, the possible reason for the censorship at the Australian Open was the presence of Chinese brand sponsorships.
“Tennis Australia is preventing spectators at the Australian Open from wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts,” HRW director Kenneth Roth tweeted.
“One of the Australian Open’s major commercial partners is Chinese premium liquor brand Guojiao 1573,” he added.
Meanwhile, Martina Navratilova, the 18-time tennis champion, harshly criticized Tennis Australia’s decision to censor a message that is widely popular among tennis greats such as Venus Williams, Andy Murray, etc.
“That’s just pathetic. The WTA stands pretty much alone on this. ‘I find it really, really cowardly. I think they are wrong on this. This is not a political statement, this is a human rights statement,” Navratilova said according to Daily Mail.