MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Open fans were asked by security to provide T-shirts with the slogan “Where’s Peng Shuai?” to do. which refers to the lingering uncertainty about the Chinese former tennis player’s well-being and whereabouts.
In November, Peng, the world’s former No. 14 singles player and part of a No. 1 double tandem, took to social media platform Weibo and accused Chinese Communist Party member Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex. In the weeks following the post, Peng disappeared from social media, raising concerns about her safety and her ability to communicate freely with the rest of the world.
On Saturday, a TikTok user posted a video in which fans of the Australian Open were approached by security and asked to take off the shirts with the slogan on them. A banner was also seen in the hands of a member of security.
In the video, the police later arrived at the scene and confirmed the position of the security crew. An officer is heard to say, “The Australian Open has a rule that you can’t have political slogans… it’s a rule that it’s a condition of entry.
“Tennis Australia makes the rules, and whatever you say – and I’m not saying you can’t have that opinion – but I say Tennis Australia sets the rules here.
“[Security is] allowed to confiscate the shirts and banner.”
The video received a lot of attention on the posting platform Reddit and was viewed 52,000 times on TikTok.
In a statement to Tennis Australia’s ESPN, the organization said its “primary concern” is Peng Shuai’s safety, but added that fans will not be allowed to enter the field or make political statements during the tournament.
“Under our ticket terms, we do not allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political,” a spokesperson said. “The safety of Peng Shuai is our number one concern. We will continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to gain greater clarity about her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being.”
During the Australian Open, the media were allowed to ask players about the current situation with Peng during press conferences, and prominent players continued to express concerns for the former player’s well-being.
Last Wednesday, four-time major winner Naomi Osaka said it was important to keep asking questions and keep Peng’s safety and whereabouts in mind because she “would want people to take care of me too.”
“I imagine myself in her shoes, and that way it’s a little scary,” Osaka said last week. “You want to lend your voice a little bit 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 hasn’t been much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai, although we will continue to do everything we can to make sure she is safe, she feels comfortable,” Azarenka said.