Chinese tennis players accused of sexual assault after former Grand Slam finalist says she was sexually harassed

Chinese bloggers are raising concerns about discrimination after Peng Shuai, a former Grand Slam finalist, said that she had been sexually harassed by several Chinese tennis players.

In an interview with China Daily, Peng Shuai, a player for China, made her accusations of sexual assault and harassment by several Chinese tennis players after a Chinese tennis federation training camp. After the interview, Peng Shuai was left out of the China team for the French Open, and was not selected to the mixed doubles team for the next event, the Italian Open. While the Chinese tennis association denies any such claims, bloggers are raising questions about whether the tennis federation’s approach to discipline was in response to Peng Shuai’s accusations.

One prominent commentator, Xin Fei, voiced his disapproval of the rules that followed the disciplinary procedures, writing that there was no reason why Peng Shuai should not have been expelled from the team.

In January, feminist activists Chang Chunpeng and Peng Wu called on Peng Shuai to report any “improper behavior” she had suffered at the hands of fellow players to the coaching staff.

After the complaint, Peng Shuai allegedly refused to play again in China, as the duo continues to file investigations. While, the players’ association denies that Peng Shuai was specifically punished for reporting the alleged groping, it did apologize for mishandling the investigation. The Chinese players’ association has said that Peng Shuai was expelled from the team after she refused to practice alongside Peng Chunpeng in January and she allegedly refused to play in the upcoming tournaments as the investigation proceeded.

Tian Le, a popular blogger and tennis commentator, told the BBC that there were legitimate reasons for avoiding an outcry, but said that the China team’s approach didn’t do Peng Shuai any favors. She said that Peng Shuai’s relatively easy dismissal from the team, and subsequent expulsion from the team at the latest tournament served as a punishment too extreme. Tian Le pointed out that in an age when football and gymnastics hold on to their top sports positions, China shouldn’t treat the tennis team as an important competition. According to reports, “three or four [of the players] were said to have approached Peng Shuai, and she decided to report them to the management team.”

Peng Shuai told the New York Times that she didn’t recognize the names of the players she said she complained about.

While the tennis association denies that Peng Shuai was targeted based on her #metoo allegations, it would make sense for China’s professional tennis team to take the allegation seriously. Peng Shuai, the daughter of an anti-corruption officer, said she found it difficult to play tennis because of the harassment. In response to her scandal, an 80-year-old former pro who played at the highest level, said “the behaviour of these players is so distasteful and inappropriate that I don’t think any Chinese player should take on such behaviours.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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