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Fans at Australian Open forced to remove shirts that say 'Where is Peng Shuai?'

Image source: Twitter screenshot

Tennis Australia, the governing body of tennis in Australia, cracked down on fans at the Australian Open who were demonstrating support for Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

What is the background?

Peng became the center of an international story in November after she accused Chinese Communist Party member Zhang Gaoli, a former top leader of the CCP, of sexual assault. The accusation, which was made in a post on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, was quickly purged.

Peng then disappeared from public life, and despite possibly staged appearances in state media, human rights observers and tennis professionals across the country have been speaking out about Peng's safety.

What happened?

Tennis fans attending the Australian Open were allegedly told by security, and then by police officers, on Saturday that wearing T-shirts that say "Where is Peng Shuai?" and displaying a banner with the same slogan were not allowed. The fans were told to remove the shirts.

A TikTok video shows event security telling the demonstrators their shirts were not allowed inside the event. The video later shows police officers confronting the demonstrators, confirming what security had said. According to the police officer, Tennis Australia rules prohibited the shirts and banner under a rule about "political slogans."

"The Australian Open does have a rule that there can't be any political slogans," the police officer said, "it's a rule that it's a condition of entry."

"Tennis Australia does set the rules, and regardless of what you're saying — and I'm not saying you can't have those views — but I am saying that Tennis Australia sets the rules here," he explained.

What did Tennis Australia say?

The organization claimed in a statement that its "primary concern" was Peng's safety, but defended its policy.

"Under our ticket conditions of entry we don't allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political," the statement said. "Peng Shuai's safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being."

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