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Spectators at Australian Open allowed to wear Peng Shuai support t-shirts

Spectators at the Australian Open will now be able to wear t-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

Spectators at the Australian Open will now be able to wear T-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai provided they do not engage in hostile behavior, the tennis tournament organization announced on Tuesday. Sunday created controversy. “Yes, provided they don’t come in as a hostile mob to cause trouble but are peaceful,” Open boss Craig Tiley told AFP, adding that security officers would judge. case by case.

Open organizers sparked controversy by asking fans to remove their T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Where’s Peng Shuai?” on the grounds that the Australian Open “does not allow clothing, banners or political placards,” according to a spokesperson for the Australian Tennis Federation. The American of Czech origin Martina Navratilova, tennis legend with her 18 Grand Slam titles (in singles), had denounced a “pathetic” decision on Twitter.

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“There have been misunderstandings for some people who are not here and do not really know the big picture,” said Craig Tiley on Tuesday. “The situation for the past two days is that some people have come with a banner on two big poles and we cannot allow that,” he added. “If you come to watch the tennis that’s fine, but ultimately we can’t allow anyone to cause a disturbance.”

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“It’s not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue”

The about-face comes as local media quoted human rights experts as saying Tennis Australia’s stance could be illegal. “There seems to be no valid reason to ask a participant to remove a T-shirt that highlights a human rights problem,” lawyer Michael Stanton told The newspaper. Age.

In response to the organizers’ ban, an Australian human rights activist managed to raise more than 14,000 Australian dollars (more than 9,000 euros) on the GoFundMe platform in order to print the same t-shirts and distribute to spectators ahead of the final of the women’s tournament.

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The pressure on the organizers was also maintained by the Australian government. “It’s very worrying and I think we should talk about these issues,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News on Tuesday, encouraging “not just celebrities but also tennis organisations, including Tennis Australia”, to speak.

“We don’t want to drag sport into politics, but it’s not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue regarding the treatment of a young woman who claims she was sexually assaulted “, he added.

Former world doubles number one Peng Shuai is absent from Melbourne amid fears for her well-being after she posted a lengthy post on Chinese social media Weibo in November in which she accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, 40 years her senior, of “forced” sex during a relationship that lasted several years.

China very quickly blocked any reference to this message, and it then did not appear in public for almost three weeks. Her subsequent public appearances did not end concerns over the 36-year-old missing out on the Australian Open. The WTA has been hailed for its firm support for the player, going so far as to suspend its tournaments in China.

Players continued to inquire directly about Peng in order to be reassured about his safety. Craig Tiley reiterated that the organization’s “primary concern” was “Peng Shuai’s well-being”.

“We have staff in China and we used our resources to help locate her early on. Since then, she has come forward and made statements, ”he defended himself. “We encourage him to have direct conversations,” he added. “The most appropriate people to do this are the WTA.”

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