After a worldwide outcry, the Australian Open organizers on Monday, Jan. 24, lifted a ban on T-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
Last Friday, Jan. 21, security asked spectators to remove T-shirts and a banner that said “Where is Peng Shuai?” before entering the grounds.
Peng Shuai accused former Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her in a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo in November.
Afterward, she suddenly vanished from public view, causing widespread worry among the worldwide tennis community, fans, and human rights organizations.
She has now reappeared, but many people are still worried about her health and safety.
According to the BBC, the Australian Open organizers informed reporters that spectators would be allowed to wear the T-shirt as long as they did not go with the “intent to disrupt” and were “peaceful.”
Craig Tiley, chief executive of Tennis Australia told The Sydney Morning Herald:
“If someone wants to wear a T-shirt and make a statement about Peng Shuai that’s fine.”
However, banners will still be prohibited since they “really take away from the comfort and safety of the fans,” and security personnel will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
The reversal comes less than 24 hours after Tennis Australia defended their ban, claiming that “clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political” were prohibited under their ticket conditions of admission.
Human rights organizations and the international tennis community were outraged by the decision, with some claiming that the organizers were caving in to pressure from significant Chinese corporate sponsors.
In an interview with Sky News, Australia’s defense minister Peter Dutton condemned the ban, calling Tennis Australia’s actions “deeply concerning.”
“I think we should be speaking up about these issues, and I’d encourage… tennis organizations, including Tennis Australia [to do so].”
Dutton also praised the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which has canceled all tournaments in China this year in response to the scandal.