Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told The Associated Press that fans at Melbourne Park will now be allowed to wear the shirts that read “Where is Peng Shuai?” as long as they don’t gather in large, disruptive groups.
“If they want to do that, va bene,” he said in a phone interview. “If anyone’s coming on site with the express intent of disrupting the comfort and safety of our fans, they’re not welcome.”
Lui continuò: “We can’t sell tickets in advance and have people come in and feel unsafe because there’s a large group of people that are using (the tournament) as a platform to espouse their views on whatever topic it is.”
Videos posted to social media over the weekend appeared to show security at the Australian Open confiscating a banner supporting Peng because it was seen as making a political statement, an apparent violation of the tournament’s rules.
“Guarda, condition of entry to the whole venue – you’re not supposed to bring any political statements in …,” one security officer could be heard saying.
The fans were also asked to remove their shirts. Police arrived on the scene and clarified the rules saying: “Regardless of any particular views on the issues, the Australian Open does have a rule that there can’t be any political slogans.”
Tennis Australia initially defended the policy saying: “Under our ticket conditions of entry we don’t allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political.”
“Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being.”
Peng, 35, made headlines in November when she wrote a lengthy post on Chinese social media platform Weibo that alleged former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago. The post was removed and Peng briefly disappeared from the public for two weeks after making the initial post.
She later emerged to deny saying she was sexually assaulted and that she was mainly staying at home in Beijing but was free to come and go as she chose.
L'Associated Press ha contribuito a questo rapporto.