The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has announced immediate suspension of all women’s tournaments in China amid concern over Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, the BBC reported.
Peng, 35, disappeared from public view for three weeks after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.
WTA chief Steve Simon said that he has “serious doubts” that Peng was “free, safe and not subject to intimidation”.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there,” he said, the report added.
In response, China said it “opposes the politicisation of sports”.
News of the WTA suspending tournaments in China has been removed from the internet in the country, although the WTA’s account on Chinese social media site Weibo is still available, the report said.
The WTA has repeatedly called for a full investigation into Peng’s claims.
There was widespread concern for Peng after she accused former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
Peng had recently said that she was “safe and well” during a video call with Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
However, the WTA said the video was “insufficient evidence” of Peng’s safety.
In a lengthy statement, Simon said he was “greatly concerned” about the risks players and staff could face if events were held in China in 2022, the report said.
“The leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” he said.
“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players,” he added.
The suspension also includes tournaments in Hong Kong.