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iQiyi reportedly distances from WTA amidst controversy and event suspension in China

iQiyi reportedly distances from WTA amidst controversy and event suspension in China

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Chinese streaming platform iQiyi has reportedly asked The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) to remove its name from the organisation's site before WTA's decision to suspend events in China. A report from The Wall Street Journal said iQiyi made a request ahead of WTA's decision that the organisation would suspend all events in China, including Hong Kong. Currently, on WTA's website, there are only three sponsors in total, including Porsche, German software corporation SAP SE, and US wearable technology company Whoop.

On 1 December, WTA announced that it would suspend all tournaments in China in response to continued questions over Peng Shuai’s condition and safety. Steve Simon, WTA's chair said he did not know how to ask the athletes to compete in China and Hong Kong when Peng was not allowed to communicate freely.

Simon added in a statement, “The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation." He added, "I very much regret it has come to this point. The tennis communities in China and Hong Kong are full of great people with whom we have worked for many years. They should be proud of their achievements, hospitality and success. However, unless China takes the steps we have asked for, we cannot put our players and staff at risk by holding events in China." 

In early November, Peng accused former senior vice premier of China's State Council Zhang Gaoli of having sexually assaulted her for a long period of time. However, Peng's post on Weibo was deleted soon after, and Peng was not seen in public for weeks.

According to AFP, reproduced by The Strait Times, Chinese netizens have been finding creative ways to speak about tennis star Peng with coded words due to censorship concerns. The report said this came as authorities look to remove posts around the star and the allegations.

Others have taken to pop culture review sites such as Douban to discuss the disappearance of Peng's Weibo after the assault accusation. Additionally, some netizens went to the tennis topic page on Weibo and posted a "big melon" had exploded in the world of tennis overnight. "Eating melon", in the Chinese internet landscape, means that consumption of gossip. 

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