Australian Open performs U-turn on ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ t-shirts amid planned protests

Fans were spotted wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” t-shirts at the Australian Open (Picture: Paul Crock / AFP)

Australian Open organiser have performed a sensational U-turn that now allows fans attending to wear t-shirts with the slogan ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’.

Tennis Australia had come in for widespread criticism after fans wanting to show their support for the Chinese doubles player were told they couldn’t as it was against policy.

Peng’s wellbeing remains a global concern after she temporarily disappeared from public eye in November after making allegations of sexual assault against a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official.

Following the backlash, which saw tennis legend Martina Navratilova brand Tennis Australia ‘weak’ and ‘cowardly’ for banning t-shirts, chief executive Craig Tiley says they have now reversed their decision and t-shirts would be allowed as long as those wearing them were peaceful.

‘Yes, as long as they are not coming as a mob to be disruptive but are peaceful,’ Tiley told AFP.

‘It’s all been a bit lost in translation from some people who are not here and don’t really know the full view.

‘The situation in the last couple of days is that some people came with a banner on two large poles and we can’t allow that.

‘If you are coming to watch the tennis that’s fine, but we can’t allow anyone to cause a disruption at the end of the day.’

Peng Shuai’s welfare is still of huge concern to many (Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Following video footage of security officials taking ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ merchandise off fans attending the tournament, a GoFundMe page was set up that was set to see 1,000 t-shirts printed to be handed out to those going to Saturday’s final.

Tennis Australia had previously insisted Peng’s safety was their ‘primary concern’ but said as part of entry to Melbourne Park banners, signs or clothing that were commercial or political were forbidden.

‘We understand and appreciate that people have strongly held personal and political views on a range of issues,’ TA said in a statement on Monday.

‘Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to do everything we can to ensure her wellbeing. Our work is ongoing and through the appropriate channels. Today we have again reiterated our strong support to the WTA and we extend this to all the players.

‘To ensure that the Australian Open remains a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for everyone, we have a longstanding policy of not allowing banners, signs or clothing that are commercial or political.

‘On this occasion, the security guard was simply enforcing this policy and while we have reviewed this and are happy to welcome the patron back to Melbourne Park, the policy will continue to be applied in relation to any items that compromise the safety and comfort of AO fans.’

Peng is not competing at this year’s Grand Slam and despite the 36-year-old since retracting her allegations and being seen in public, there is still concern about her current wellbeing.

MORE : Australian Open final protest plans gather pace as fans show support for Peng Shuai with 1000 t-shirts

MORE : ‘Cowardly’ – Martina Navratilova slams Australian Open for banning ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ t-shirts

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