Beijing has not addressed the issue in any credible way after Peng Shuai accused a former government official of sexual assault, the Women's Tennis Association said.

Peng has dropped out of public view after raising the allegations about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
Peng has dropped out of public view after raising the allegations about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli. (AFP)

The Women's Tennis Association, WTA, has announced it is suspending all tournaments in China amid what its chairman called "serious doubts" about the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai. 

"I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong," WTA chair and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement distributed by the tour on Wednesday.

"In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault," Simon said.

“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” Simon wrote in the statement.

The decision, which was applauded by many current and former tennis players, could cost the US-headquartered WTA hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcasting and sponsorship.

Peng dropped out of public view after raising the allegations about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a November 2 social media posting that was quickly taken down by Chinese authorities.

READ MORE: Tennis world concerned over whereabouts of China's Peng Shuai

Call for 'full and transparent investigation'

The WTA had planned 11 events in China this year before Covid-19 forced them to be relocated or cancelled. The 2022 schedule had not yet been set.

Peng, a 35-year-old Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, was not seen for more than two weeks following her allegations.

Peng's claims against Zhang were the first time China's #MeToo movement has touched the highest echelons of the ruling Communist Party.

Her accusation, posted on November 2, was quickly scrubbed from the internet in China and she was not seen publicly for weeks.

Peng was then photographed at a tennis event in Beijing and participated in a video call on November 21 with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

"While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation," Simon said.

Simon repeated the WTA's call for a "full and transparent investigation, without censorship" into Peng's sexual assault accusation.

"If we walk away from this, we are basically telling the world that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK because it's difficult to do," he said.

READ MORE: Chinese tennis star Peng appears in new videos amid global outcry

Source: TRTWorld and agencies