The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will not return to China this year while the tour seeks a resolution with China over the Peng Shuai case, WTA CEO Steve Simon confirmed.
Last November, tennis star Peng was feared to be held incommunicado by the Chinese government after she accused retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her into sex during a years-long on-off relationship.
Peng, a three-time Olympian and grand slam doubles champion, later denied having made the sexual assault claim.
The WTA continued to call for a thorough and transparent investigation into Peng’s allegations and suspended all tournaments in China over her safety.
“We remain dedicated to finding a resolution to this,” Simon told The Tennis Podcast.
“We want to find a resolution that Peng can be comfortable with, the Chinese government can be comfortable with, and we can be comfortable with.
“We are not about walking away from China. We have suspended our operations there right now. We will continue to do that until we get to a resolution.
“We will stay resolute. We do hope to be back there in 2023 with the resolution that shows progress was made in the space. That’s a victory for the world if we can accomplish that.”
China’s government-controlled media lashed out at the WTA on Twitter after it announced the blanket ban last year, accusing the governing body of “putting on an exaggerated show,” and “supporting the West’s attack on Chinese system.”
But Simon insists the organization will not simply walk away from the issue.
‘We have to find a solution’
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Olympic officials met with Peng in February, following through on a promise to hold a meeting with the athlete.
The dinner, held on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Games, was the first in-person meeting between IOC President Thomas Bach and Peng since the former Olympian made the allegations, which have since been wiped from the Chinese internet.
Bach and Peng first agreed to meet during the Beijing Olympics in a video call in November last year, but the IOC has come in for harsh criticism for its handling of the situation, with critics accusing it of supporting Chinese government efforts to silence Peng.
Last year, Simon said the IOC’s intervention was insufficient to allay concerns about Peng’s safety.
“We have not had any recent communication with Peng and the world has not seen Peng since the Olympics either,” Simon added.
“I don’t think you will make change in this world by walking away from issues. You have to create change.
“It might not be everything we want. But we have to find a solution that finds that balance that allows us to go back and see progress in the area.”