In contrast to many sports leagues and large corporations in America, who have cowed under the threat of losing market share in China, World Tennis Association president Steve Simon promises that the WTA will pull tournaments from China over the disappearance of professional tennis player Peng Shuai if he is not satisfied with an investigation into said disappearance.
Shuai, a former world top-ranked women's doubles player, claimed on November 2nd that she was forced to have sex with former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in his home three years ago. Shuai's post was promptly censored on Weibo by the Chinese government, and she has not been credibly seen or heard from since. According to ESPN, World Tennis Association president Steve Simon purportedly received an email from Shuai in which she professed that she was safe and recanted her previous accusations, but this email is widely believed to be either fraudulent or coerced. Other than this alleged email, Shuai has apparently disappeared.
As Shuai's disappearance has dragged on, the public furor at the Chinese government has grown, numerous athletes including Serena Williams have demanded an investigation and the WTA has threatened to pull events from China. The International Olympic Committee has faced pressure to pull the 2022 Winter Olympics from China over the affair.
Thus, even if it is unexpectedly true that the Chinese government was not involved in Shuai's disappearance, it is simply not credible to claim that they are not even aware of the controversy at all. And yet, that is exactly the position the communist government continues to take.
In open defiance of the world, a spokesperson for the Chinese government has claimed that they are "not aware" of the worldwide controversy surrounding Shuai at all.
Simon paints a stark contrast to the NBA, which chided former Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for an innocuous tweet in support of freedom for Hong Kong. Many would-be socially conscious NBA players including LeBron James were reportedly incensed at Morey for potentially disrupting a pre-season game in China and their lucrative Chinese endorsement deals with his remarks.
Meanwhile, Simon says that his league will not be bullied by the financial power wielded by the Chinese government. "We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it. Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored," Simon said. He also flatly denied that the purported email from Shuai to himself was genuine in a Wednesday interview.