An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt supporting tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape.
Footage has emerged of security guards and police demanding a spectator remove her shirt at the grand slam over the weekend.
The activist’s shirt featured the words ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ on the back, with a photo of her face and ‘wanted’ printed on the front.
The man filming the confrontation can be heard asking the guard ‘what do you suggest she wear?’ after the woman was ordered to take off her clothing.
An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt expressing welfare concerns for tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured) disappeared from public view in November after levelling sexual assault accusations against a senior politician
Instead of answering the question, the guard asks the man to also remove a similar shirt.
A police officer then approaches and informs the pair that tennis tournament does not permit guests to take ‘political slogans’ into the grand stands.
‘This isn’t a political message,’ the male activist responds.
‘This isn’t saying vote for the liberal or labor party. This is a female tennis player who is being persecuted and the Women’s Tennis Association has spoken out for her. We are simply [reiterating] what the WTA is saying.’
The cop says he ‘understands’ what the pair are saying, but ‘Tennis Australia sets the rules’.
‘I’m not saying you are not allowed to have those views, but TA is allowed to confiscate your shirts and the banner,’ the police officers said, before the video cuts out.
Tennis Australia doubled down on its decision to ban shirts supporting Peng in a statement on Sunday.
‘Under our ticket conditions of entry we don’t allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political,’ it 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 wellbeing.’
Peng disappeared from the public eye for three weeks after she made a post on Chinese social media making the allegations on November 2
A Victoria Police spokesperson said the force is ‘aware of a small number of protesters outside the Australian Open on Friday 21 January’.
‘As part of the conditions of entry to the Open, nothing politically motivated can be displayed,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Police engaged with the patrons in support of security, referencing the conditions of entry as they exited the venue.’
A GoFundMe Page was launched on Saturday to help raise funds for activists to distribute Peng Shuai shirts at the Australian Open, garnering more than $6640 in 24 hours.
Shuai vanished from public view for three weeks last year after making a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo on November 2 accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of raping her in 2017.
‘Why did you come and look for me again, take me to your house, and force me into sex? I have no proof, and it would be impossible for me to keep any evidence. You denied everything afterwards,’ Shuai’s post read.
Within half an hour, the former world No.1 doubles player’s post was deleted and she disappeared for weeks, sparking worldwide concern about her safety.
Australia’s Ash Bary (pictured) says she has ‘no idea’ if silenced Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is safe, admitting players have been told very little about her terrifying situation
After widespread fears Shuai had been silenced, with the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai trending online, she resurfaced in December, sharing a video of herself, recanting her sexual assault claims.
Despite her reappearance, the tennis community has remained alarmed about her welfare, with Australian stars voicing their concerns.
‘Hopefully it’s not too long until we see her back out here,’ Australian world No.1 Ash Barty said after her win on Wednesday.
Tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios also weighed in on the situation saying the sporting world is ‘obligated’ to speak up for the Chinese star, and that ‘something’s obviously not right there’.
‘Obviously if that’s still something that’s ongoing it needs to be found out and kind of, I guess, we need more awareness about it. We can’t forget about her,’ Kyrgios said.
‘We have to use our platforms as athletes. I think we’re obligated to do that, we’re obligated to speak up and, you know, get to the root of what’s happening and why it’s happening.’
Women’s Tennis Association Tour chairman Steve Simon in December made the unprecedented move to suspend all competitions in China, saying the WTA was founded on equality for women and that Peng’s treatment is ‘unacceptable’.