Fans at the Australian Open were asked by security to remove T-shirts which featured the slogan "Where is Peng Shuai?" on Saturday.
A video shared to social media appeared to show officers confiscating the clothing, which referenced the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the well-being and whereabouts of the Chinese star who had accused a top Chinese leader of sexual assault.
In late 2021, Peng's comments and subsequent disappearance from the public eye prompted a chorus of global concern from both inside and outside the tennis world. The Biden administration and United Nations human rights office have joined the calls for Beijing to provide proof of Peng’s well-being. The WTA has suspended tournaments in China due to the incident.
In a statement to ESPN, Tennis Australia said that its "primary concern" is the safety of Peng but that fans are not allowed to bring onto the grounds or display political statements at the tournament.
"Under our ticket conditions of entry we don't allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political," a spokesperson said. "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."
Players competing in the tournament have been asked about the ongoing situation throughout its early stages, with four-time major winner Naomi Osaka saying it was important to keep raising the topic and keep Peng's safety and whereabouts front of mind.
“If I was in her position, I would want people to care for me, too,” Osaka said. “I imagine myself in her shoes and, in that way, it’s a little bit scary. But you want to lend your voice and you want people to ask the questions.”
Added Victoria Azarenka, the No. 24 seed in the tournament a member of the WTA players council, “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."
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