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The Australian Open organization announced on Tuesday that spectators at the tennis tournament will now be able to wear t-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai provided they do not engage in hostile behavior.
“Where’s Peng Shuai?” T-shirts allowed during the Australian Open. After creating controversy on Sunday, the organizers of the tennis tournament announced on Tuesday January 25 that spectators will now be able to wear T-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai, provided they do not disturb security or that they don’t behave in a hostile way.
“Yes, provided they don’t come in as a hostile mob to cause mayhem but are peaceful,” Open boss Craig Tiley told AFP, adding that security officers would judge. case by case.
Open organizers sparked controversy by asking fans to remove their T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Where’s Peng Shuai?” on the grounds that the Australian Open “does not allow clothing, banners or political placards,” according to a spokesperson for the Australian Tennis Federation.
The American of Czech origin Martina Navratilova, tennis legend with her 18 Grand Slam titles (in singles), had denounced a “pathetic” decision on Twitter.
“There have been misunderstandings for some people who are not here and do not really know the big picture,” said Craig Tiley on Tuesday.
“In the past two days… some people have come with a banner on two big poles and we can’t allow that,” he added. “If you come to watch the tennis that’s fine, but ultimately we can’t allow anyone to cause a disturbance.”
“Not a political question”, but “a question of human rights”, for Canberra
The about-face comes as local media quoted human rights experts as saying Tennis Australia’s stance could be illegal.
“There seems to be no valid reason to ask a participant to remove a t-shirt that highlights a human rights problem,” lawyer Michael Stanton told The newspaper. Age.
In response to the organizers’ ban, an Australian human rights activist managed to raise more than 14,000 Australian dollars (more than 9,000 euros) on the GoFundMe platform in order to print the same t-shirts and distribute them to spectators ahead of the final of the women’s tournament.
The pressure on the organizers was also maintained by the Australian government.
“It’s very worrying and I think we should talk about these issues,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News on Tuesday, encouraging “not just celebrities but also tennis organisations, including Tennis Australia”, to speak.
“We don’t want to drag sport into politics, but it’s not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue regarding the treatment of a young woman who claims she was sexually assaulted. “, he added.
“The main concern” of the WTA, “the well-being of Peng Shuai”
Former world doubles number one Peng Shuai is absent from Melbourne, and there are fears for her well-being after the publication in November on the Chinese social network Weibo of a long message – since deleted – in which she accused the former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, 40 years his senior, of “forced” sex during a relationship that lasted several years.
China very quickly blocked any reference to this message, and the player then did not appear in public for almost three weeks. Her subsequent public appearances did not end concerns over the 36-year-old missing out on the Australian Open.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has been hailed for its strong support for the player, going so far as to suspend her tournaments in China.
Players continued to ask for direct news from Peng Shuai in order to be reassured about his safety.
Craig Tiley reiterated that the organization’s “primary concern” was “Peng Shuai’s well-being”.
“We have staff in China and we used our resources to help locate her at the start. She has since come forward and made statements,” he said. “We encourage him to have direct conversations,” he added. “The most appropriate people to do that are the WTA.”
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