The women’s professional tennis tour announced Wednesday that it was immediately suspending all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, in response to the disappearance from public life of the tennis star Peng Shuai after she accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault.
With the move, the Women’s Tennis Association became the only major sports organization to push back against China’s increasingly authoritarian government. Women’s tennis officials made the decision after they were unable to speak directly with Peng after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, in social media posts that were quickly deleted.
The Chinese government quickly removed all mentions of Peng’s accusation, and coverage of Peng from news media outside China has been censored. She has not been seen in public except in the company of government officials in more than two weeks.
Peng, 35, a Grand Slam doubles champion and three-time Olympian, resurfaced late last month in a series of appearances with Chinese officials, including in a video conference with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, which will bring the Winter Games to Beijing in February.
The International Olympic Committee said Thursday that it had held a second call with the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, trying anew to deflect criticism of its light-touch approach to China only months before the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
“We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai,” the I.O.C. statement said. “This is why, just yesterday, an I.O.C. team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.”