December 8, 2022

How the ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirt rule has rocked the Australian Open | Tennis News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Australian Open this time has been in the news even before the tournament started. Thanks largely to the Novak Djokovic visa row and also the Peng Shuai story.
Already rocked by the Djokovic fiasco days before it began, the Australian Open organisers would have hoped that the tournament would go on smoothly till some fans turned up at the stadiums wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” shirts.
Peng Shuai made headlines late last year when she levelled sexual assualt allegations against Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China.
Peng, 35, made the allegations against Zhang, 75, on November 2 on her verified account on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. She said she met Zhang earlier in her career and had a consensual relationship with him. She claimed he sexually assaulted her shortly after he stepped down as one of China’s top leaders in 2017.
After that post, Peng was absent from public view for nearly three weeks. Last month, on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai Peng said she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and that a social media post she had made had been misunderstood.
Despite that, fans still seemed worried that Peng was not being able to be completely free and was being forced to say things which she didn’t mean. Multiple fans were seen wearing the ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts

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Australian human rights activists wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (AFP Photo)
Footage screened last weekend of security and police requesting a fan to remove a shirt which featured an image of Peng on the front and “Where is Peng Shuai?” on the back sparked widespread condemnation, with some critics describing it as cowardly.

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Two spectators wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts in the stands at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (AFP Photo)
Tennis Australia responded initially by stating that the clothing breached its rules on “political messaging” and fell in the commercial or political material category. And that caused a huge stir, with many well known personalities hitting out at the rule.

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Australian human rights activists wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (AFP Photo)

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Two spectators wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts in the stands at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (AFP Photo)
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova for instance called the stance of Tennis Australia pathetic and accused the body of bowing down to China.

The backlash grew stronger when Australia’s defence minister Peter Dutton told Sky news that Pengs safety is “not a political issue” and that it’s a “human rights” issue. The foreign minister meanwhile said that freedom of speech should be defended.
Many others joined the chorus of voices asking for the ban to be reversed.

That made Tennis Australia reverse its decision on the ban on these shirts. However, Tennis Australia Chief Executive and Tournament Director Craig Tiley on Tuesday said that, while the ban on the shirts with the message ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ will be reversed, as long as the fans wearing the shirts don’t congregate in large groups or cause problems for other spectators, the ban on banners with similar messaging will stay, since they might be a safety concern.
Tiley also said that there were people who showed up with a banner on two large poles and that is something they cannot allow inside the stadiums.
There haven’t been too many instances of the broadcast cameras showing fans wearing these t-shirts either, though that depends on how many fans were actually wearing these shirts after the ban was reversed. Also the capacity at the Rod Laver arena and the Margaret Court arena has been capped at 50%.
According to some reports though the tournament could see a sea of fans wearing these shirts for the women’s singles final on Saturday, with fundraisers saying they will give out these shirts for free at Melbourne Park. Others meanwhile have pointed at Chinese sponsorship of the Australian Open as a reason for the tournament to initially not allow fans to wear these shirts and make a statement.
For the fans who want to wear the shirts, it’s a way of bringing back to light a topic which most people don’t seem to be talking about anymore.

Here are some other messages that were put on Twitter earlier criticizing the ban on these shirts:

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