China is boycotting 'right and wrong,' said the WTA chief as divisions intensified in Peng Shuai

It is not a decision that can be influenced by business or dollars or politics that may be associated with it," WTA chief executive Steve Simon

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As tensions with China over Peng Shuai's case escalate on Thursday, the head of the Women's Tennis Association said it was suspending all competitions on the Hong Kong continent because some items were "bigger than money."

The boycott has sparked outrage from Beijing, with Olympic officials claiming to have seized a second video of the athlete, who did not appear in public for three weeks after allegations of sexual harassment last month against a former Chinese Communist Party official.

The WTA chief, Steve Simon, commented on NBC's "TODAY" program, saying he did not believe China or its tennis authorities had provided adequate answers to Peng's safety and freedom.

"This is a decision of what is right and wrong," said Simon. "It is not a decision that can be influenced by business or dollars or politics that may be associated with it."

Simon's comments come as the International Olympic Committee revealed on Thursday that he had another phone call with Peng and arranged to meet him in person in January. The IOC has been widely criticized by Chinese human rights activists and observers for its acceptance of Peng's safe and comfortable conduct, as well as the absence of any phone calls from any conversation about his initial allegations.

The saga led to a renewed focus on China and the sports field ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In his defense on Thursday, the IOC said in a statement that it had "taken a man-centered and man-made approach to its status," and used "peaceful negotiations," saying it was "the most promising way to successfully carry out such personal matters."

Photo: WTA Tour Finals

WTA chief Steve Simon.Henry Romero / Reuters

The WTA has gained international acclaim for being a rare example of a sports organization that is committed to endangering China's economic opportunities and instead standing up for human rights.

Basketball and soccer officials have come under fire for apologizing in Beijing after sports stars covered issues such as Taiwan's independence and allegations of arrest and harassment of Uyghur Muslims, something Beijing denies.

The WTA ruling, announced Wednesday, has sparked a new response from Beijing. The Chinese Tennis Association has "expressed its displeasure and strong opposition" to the move, saying it was based on "false information," according to a statement in the state-run Global Times newspaper.

The suspension "will not only injure the right athlete, but will also seriously damage the potential opportunities of female tennis players" and "will damage the interest of every tennis player," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday, "We have been strongly opposed to the actions that make sport more political."

Earlier this week, China urged American businesses that benefit from the country's largest market to "speak the truth" and "encourage American authorities to follow China's rational and prudent policy," Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng told US diplomats. businessmen Tuesday.

Xie said he hopes this will be free from trade wars and "disputes or conflicts over prices, ideas or geopolitics."

United States and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Both people asked for answers from Peng, joining a campaign led by top tennis stars including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic.

Simon told NBC News on Thursday that the WTA had received two emails from Peng and had limited contact with the Chinese Tennis Association. But he feels that all these efforts to prove that Peng was working freely, including the IOC call, were "planned."

We cannot “depart from. When we do that, we tell everyone that it is okay not to talk about sexual harassment with respect and integrity, ”she said. "It 's something we will not allow to happen, or ignore, or compromise our goals in it."

Beijing National Tennis Center, where the ATP and WTA China Open tennis tournaments are held annually.Noel Celis / AFP - Getty Images

The latest round of criticism and criticism came after Peng posted a message on Chinese social media site Weibo on November 2 claiming he had been sexually abused during an affair with Zhang Gaoli, a former member of China's powerful Politburo. Standing Committee.

Neither Zhang, who retired in 2018, nor the National Council, the Chinese government's governing body, has ever commented publicly on the allegations.

Peng's post was immediately removed, and Chinese government inspectors scrutinized the article on Weibo. Peng did not appear in public for about three weeks, sparking a campaign of tennis stars and the WTA seeking evidence of his safety and an investigation into his allegations.