China is facing increased pressure to prove the whereabouts of missing tennis star Peng Shuai, after the head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) threatened to pull tournaments out of China and the United Nations asked for proof that she is well.
Shuai, 35, has not been seen publicly since she posted on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this month, alleging sexual assault by former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
Shuai, a former No. 1 ranked women’s doubles player and three-time Olympian, alleged she was “forced” into a sexual relationship with Zhang between 2013 and 2018. The Nov. 2 post was removed from her verified Weibo account, and the country’s state-controlled media has suppressed all reporting on the case.
WTA Chairman Steve Simon said Friday that he’s willing to pull the organization out of China — a move that would cost the WTA hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”
“We continue to call for independent and verifiable proof that Peng Shuai is safe and that her sexual assault allegation will be investigated fully, fairly and without censorship. If not, the WTA is prepared to do what is right,” he said.
China has been the focus of the WTA’s most aggressive expansion over the last decade and hosted nine tournaments in the 2019 season with a total of $30.4 million of prize money on offer. The season-ending WTA Finals had a prize purse of $14 million in 2019 when it was played in Shenzhen for the first time.
The Finals were cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and moved this year to Guadalajara, Mexico, but the WTA has said it will return to Shenzhen from 2022 until 2030.
Earlier this week, Simon released a statement saying he was suspicious of an email released by China’s state-owned television broadcaster, CGTN, claiming it was written by Shuai. The email was written in her voice and claims she is not missing or in harm’s way: “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has sent an email to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman & CEO, CGTN has learned. The email reads: pic.twitter.com/uLi6Zd2jDI
“The statement released today by Chinese state media … only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts. I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her,” he said Friday.
“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.”
Liz Throssell, a U.N. human rights spokesperson, has also called on China to prove that Peng is all right, as well as an investigation into her allegations.
“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault,” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson of the UN Human Rights office, told CNN reporters in Geneva on Friday.
The issue has also emerged as China prepares to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February amid calls from global rights groups and others for a boycott over its human rights record. The International Olympic Committee has declined to comment on Peng’s matter, saying it believed “quiet diplomacy” offered the best opportunity for a solution.
Concern among the global tennis community and beyond has grown over Peng’s safety and whereabouts since her allegation. Some of the world’s top tennis players, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, as well as the German Olympic Committee, have tweeted #WhereIsPengShuai.
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuaipic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
China says it is a nation “ruled by law,” but the Communist Party ultimately holds sway and there are large gray areas of enforcement. Control over the press and social media allows authorities to keep any word of disappearances quiet and to stonewall critics, although such news often gradually surfaces through underground and foreign sources.
For celebrities in the entertainment world, tangling with the Chinese authorities can be a career killer. For business leaders, it can mean a loss of status, market access and possible incarceration. With political dissidents, it often means disappearance into the vast security state, without access to family or legal recourse.
Even before taking power in 1949, the Communist Party underwent numerous rounds of vicious struggles during which those on the losing side were disposed of without due process. The 1966-76 Cultural Revolution saw politicians, educators and musicians locked up for years without charge, often in solitary confinement.
Today, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection handles most major charges against ranking officials, who may drop out of sight for months before a terse statement is issued saying they are under investigation for “severe violations of rules and regulations.” Heavy sentences are later announced, with little or no details given about the charges or the evidence brought against them.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
Head coaches Orlondo Steinauer of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Mike O’Shea of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will again be on opposite sidelines at the Grey Cup game.
Hamilton will have home-field advantage Sunday when it faces Winnipeg at a sold-out Tim Hortons Field. The Blue Bombers come in as defending champion after downing the Ticats 33-12 in the 2019 Grey Cup.
This time around, the roles are certainly reversed.
In 2019, Steinauer guided Hamilton to a CFL-best 15-3 record, tying the league mark for most wins by a first-year head coach. Steinauer also got the better of O’Shea that year as the Ticats swept the two-game series with Winnipeg, which posted an 11-7 record before advancing to its first Grey Cup appearance under O’Shea.
This season, Winnipeg (CFL-best 11-3 record) was certainly the class of the league with two of its three losses coming after it had clinched first in the West Division. Hamilton (8-6) finished second in the East Division behind the Toronto Argonauts (9-5).
Steinauer and O’Shea definitely have a long history together.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans are over the moon the CFL team are now heading to the Grey Cup for the second time in three years after defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Division final Sunday. 2:25
They were teammates in Toronto (2001-08), O’Shea a hard-nosed middle linebacker and Steinauer a versatile performer in the secondary. They often spent time together evaluating game film as part of their preparations.
O’Shea and Steinauer won a Grey Cup as players with Toronto in ’04 before adding another as Argos assistant coaches in 2012.
O’Shea, 51, from North Bay, Ont., is in his seventh season as Winnipeg’s head coach. He’s a finalist for the CFL’s coach of the year honour for the first time.
Ryan Dinwiddie, who completed his rookie year as Toronto’s head coach, is the East nominee.
Steinauer, a 48-year-old native of Seattle, is in his second season as Hamilton’s head coach. He was the CFL’s top coach in 2019.
WATCH | Ticats to play 108th Grey Cup on home soil vs. Blue Bombers:
Papi White’s 92-yard punt return touchdown propelled Hamilton to a 27-19 win over Toronto in the East Final. 1:32
Hamilton and Winnipeg met just once this season. The Bombers began their title defence with a 19-6 home win over the Ticats to kick off the CFL’s resumption of play.
The league didn’t hold a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the two teams that began the ’21 campaign will now close it out.
Ticats look to avenge 2019 loss
Hamilton comes into the Grey Cup having won six of its last seven games. And the Ticats’ defence has been solid in the playoffs, anchoring wins over Montreal (23-12) and Toronto (27-19) in the East semifinal and final, respectively.
Hamilton registered six sacks and five turnovers versus the Alouettes while holding CFL rushing leader William Stanback to 29 yards on 12 carries. On Sunday, the Ticats didn’t allow a touchdown as Toronto’s scoring consisted of six field goals and a single.
Twice in the first quarter, Toronto drove inside the Hamilton five-yard line and each time had to settle for a field goal. Ticats quarterback Dane Evans also stripped Argos’ defender Shaq Richardson of the ball at the visitors’ 25-yard line that prevented the Double Blue from adding to a 12-0 advantage.
Evans was also instrumental in Hamilton’s win over Toronto. He relieved starter Jeremiah Masoli in the second quarter and finished 16-of-16 passing for 249 yards and a TD.
Evans also ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns as the Ticats became the first team to secure a home Grey Cup berth since the ’13 Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Steinauer hasn’t said who’ll start Sunday against Winnipeg. Masoli was under centre for the season-opening loss to the Bombers.
Hamilton will attempt to earn its first Grey Cup crown at home since 1972. That year, standout Ticats defensive lineman Angelo Mosca capped his illustrious CFL career by hoisting the hallowed trophy with teammate Garney Henley before a partisan Ivor Wynne Stadium gathering.
The legendary Mosca, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1987, died Nov. 6 at age 84 following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s.
Two years ago, Winnipeg native Andrew Harris put an exclamation mark on the Bombers’ championship season. He was named Grey Cup MVP and top Canadian after rushing for 134 yards and a TD on 18 carries while adding five catches for 35 yards and a touchdown against Hamilton.
On Sunday, Harris ran for 136 yards and a TD as Winnipeg dispatched the Saskatchewan Roughriders 21-17 in the West Division final despite committing six turnovers. The game was Harris’s first since Oct. 15 due to a knee injury.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Not long after Serena Williams’ name was absent from the entry list for the Australian Open, she confirmed the obvious: the seven-time champion won’t play the 2022 edition of the season-opening major in January.
The 40-year-old Williams hasn’t played since retiring from her first-round match at Wimbledon with a right hamstring injury and her ranking has slipped to No. 41. She won the last of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2017 Australian Open, and was beaten in the semifinals this year by Naomi Osaka in straight sets.
The Australian Open’s website Wednesday said the seven-time women’s singles champion would not compete in Melbourne “following advice from her medical team.”
“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Williams told the website. “Melbourne is one of my favorite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”
Novak Djokovic was on the men’s entry list at No. 1 in a further indication that he’ll be playing at Melbourne Park beginning Jan. 17 despite Australia’s strict regulations requiring all players, officials and fans to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
Djokovic has declined to comment on his vaccination status in recent months, although he was included last week on the Serbian team for the ATP Cup which starts Jan. 1 in Sydney.
The nine-time Australian Open champion is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Nadal is also entered for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 17, but Federer is skipping the tournament as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Daniil Medvedev, who ended Djokovic’s bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam with a victory in the U.S. Open final, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev are listed above No. 6 Nadal, who is not playing for Spain at the ATP Cup.
Ash Barty tops the women’s entry list and will continue her quest to end a long drought for Australian women at the tournament. No Australian woman has won the singles title since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
On Monday, Canadian Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, said she will take a mental break from tennis and sit out the start of next season, including the Australian Open.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
OTTAWA – Canada will not be sending diplomats to the Beijing Olympics in early February, effectively joining a diplomatic boycott with the United States, United Kingdom and Australia denouncing China’s alleged human rights violations.
“As many partners around the world, we are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday, flanked by Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge, as well as MP and former Olympian Adam Van Koeverden.
As the boycott only involves diplomatic staff and government officials, Canadian athletes will still compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympic games beginning next February. The foreign minister argued that Canada’s decision sends a “strong signal” to China without unfairly affecting athletes working to compete in Beijing.
Joly and St-Onge said their top priority for the country’s athletes competing in China was their safety, and that the RCMP would be working with the Canadian Olympic Committee to ensure they are properly protected during the games.
But neither minister was able to provide details of what that meant.
“There are already agents that have been hired to ensure the security of the athletes and we’re still in discussion with the RCMP with (Public Safety Minister) Marco Mendicino. Everything will be in place to make sure that the athletes are safe,” St-Onge said.
China is facing strong and increasing international criticism over what many countries, including Canada, have called the “genocide” of its Uyghur minority, as well as its recent strongarm tactics to increase its control over Hong King by cracking down on democracy and civil liberties via a security law enacted during the pandemic.
China also recently released two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained for over three years due to what Canada described as “hostage diplomacy.”
Federal opposition parties criticized the Trudeau government for taking so much time to decide to boycott the Games and not acting sooner to push for them to either be postponed for one year or even relocated to another country.
According to former Canadian ambassador to China Guy St-Jacques, delaying the games for one year to allow an international investigation into human rights abuse allegations in China would have been the clearest and most effective message Canada could have sent.
But a widespread diplomatic boycott is the second-best option at this point and will still send a strong message to Chinese President Xi Jinping without requiring Canadian athletes to suffer the consequences of a full boycott, he said.
“It will have an impact because this will result in a loss of face for President Xi Jinping. We know that he wanted to use the Olympics to showcase that China’s a modern country, a superpower that knows how to organize things,” said the former ambassador.
It will have an impact because this will result in a loss of face for President Xi Jinping
“He was hoping that having foreign leaders there would confirm that, in fact, China has become so powerful that nobody would dare to criticize it,” he continued, adding he expects many more if not all members of the European Union to join the boycott.
The U.S. was the first country to formally announce that they would send no diplomatic envoys or staff with their athletes to the upcoming winter games during a press conference on Monday, citing China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” against the Uyghur people.
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the [People’s Republic of China]’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing.
Two other Canadian allies, Australia and then the U.K., followed suit on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, each denouncing China’s repressive actions and human rights violations against its own people.
Joly said that she has used every opportunity possible to discuss the Olympics with Canada’s allies in the G7 and NATO, likely to exhort them to follow suit in the diplomatic boycott.
“There are still many countries studying the question but clearly, I want to make sure as I’m heading to the G7 … that I raise this issue and I want to make sure that more countries in the world send a strong signal,” Joly said.
The decision is likely to aggravate Canada’s already strained relationship with Beijing, notably as the Trudeau government is also expected to announce a formal decision on whether Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will be allowed to participate in Canada’s 5G network.
In an interview with National Post last week, China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu warned that such boycotts are not in line with the values of the Olympic Games.
“It is for the people. It is for humanity. It is not for politicians,” Cong said. “It is against the spirit of the Olympic Games to politicize these issues.”
China has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang and said abuse allegations are fabricated.
Its foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing in Beijing that Australian politicians were engaged in “political posturing.”
“Whether they come or not, nobody cares,” he added.
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