Tennis Australia has done a championship backflip after enduring relentless criticism over its decision to confiscate a ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ shirt from a spectator earlier in the week.
The public and several prominent politicians were furious that the Australian Open was acting to censor commentary on Peng Shaui and her bizarre disappearance shortly after making claims of sexual misconduct against a retired Communist Party official.
Some users on social media inferred that Tennis Australia had cracked down on the T-shirt because of a $100 million sponsorship deal with a Chinese company, although there is no suggestion that this is the case.
Now, spectators will be allowed to wear their protest T-shirts at the Australian Open.
“If you come in and you have a T-shirt on and your T-shirt says ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ and you have a personal view on it, that is fine,” said Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia. “We are not going to do anything with that person.”
However, this peace offering will not extend to the carrying of signs, banners, or any other activity that interrupts the tennis in a 'political' way.
"When someone wants to use the event to be disruptive to the safety and comfort of our fans, those people won’t be allowed on site. If they are bringing a banner in and a stick to hold the banner up and coming in a mob to just distract and disrupt fans, they won’t be allowed."
There is a GoFundMe set up to raise money to hand out hundreds of ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ shirts to fans in time for the final.
China’s behaviour over the Peng Shaui incident has been the topic of international outrage, with many ATP champions speaking out against the Communist nation. The WTA has taken a significant cut to its profits by declaring it will not hold any tournaments in China in 2022 in protest over the incident.
Protesters intend to test Tennis Australia’s nerve over the coming days by showing up at the Australian Open wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ shirts in large numbers.
“We have to do more until Peng Shuai is free,” said Max Mok, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist.