Australian Open spectator forced to remove T-shirt in Peng Shuai drama

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·Sports Reporter
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A spectator wearing a Peng Shuai t-shirt (pictured left) and (pictured right) tennis star Peng Shuai.
A spectator has been asked to remove her t-shirt (pictured left) featuring an image of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured right) following her accusations on Weibo last year. (Images: Twitter/Getty Images)

Tennis Australia (TA) has defended its decision to ask a spectator to replace a shirt in support of Peng Shuai at the Australian Open.

A video emerged of officials asking a spectator to replace her shirt, which featured an image of Peng.

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The t-shirt read: "Where is Peng Shuai?"

The video ends as police said TA were permitted to remove any Peng material during the Australian Open.

"The Australian Open does have a rule that there can't be any political slogans," a police officer can be heard saying in the video.

"That is a rule that is part of the condition of entry."

Following the video, Tennis Australia defended its decision to confiscate any paraphernalia.

"Under our ticket conditions of entry, we don't allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political," the statement read.

"Peng Shuai's safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her wellbeing."

Concerns for Peng Shuai after sexual assault allegations

The Chinese star made worldwide headlines last year after she went missing from the public.

Peng, a former Wimbledon doubles champion and World No.1, made the sexual assault allegation on Chinese social media against Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the Communist Party’s ruling Standing Committee.

That post was removed within minutes and the Peng went missing from public view.

She did not respond publicly to calls for information to show she was safe.

Photos of Peng posted by the China Open on the Weibo social media service made no mention of her disappearance or her accusation.

In November, the tennis player Peng told IOC president Thomas Bach that she is "safe and well" in a video call with the International Olympic Committee boss on Sunday.

Shuai Peng (pictured right) during a Women's Doubles first round match at the 2020 Australian Open.
Shuai Peng (pictured right) during a Women's Doubles first round match at the 2020 Australian Open. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The 30-minute call came amid growing global concern over Peng and her whereabouts after she accused a former leading Communist Party official of sexual assault.

China's ruling Communist Party has tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng.

The call with IOC president Bach, athletes commission chair Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Association, was Peng’s first direct contact with sports officials outside China since she disappeared from public view on November 2.

Since the incident a number of players have spoken out against the drama.

Victoria Azarenka, a long-time member of the WTA Players' Council, said efforts were still being made to ensure Peng was safe.

"There hasn't been that much development in terms of contact with Peng Shuai even though from our side we will continue to make any and all efforts to make sure that she is safe, she feels comfortable," she said on Wednesday.

"Hopefully we will get to hear from her personally at some point. I think that's the goal, the main goal right now."

After her win in the second round on Wednesday, World No.1 Ash Barty said: "Obviously we're all looking out for her safety. We all hope that she's well.

"We hope that she's doing okay. Hopefully it's not too long until we see her back out here."

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