A spectator with a Peng Shuai T-shirt (Image: TikTok/Drew Pavlou)

A video that has gone viral on social media shows a spectator and Hong Kong pro-democracy supporter being asked by a security guard to take off a shirt bearing the phrase “Where is Peng Shuai?”, referring to the ongoing uncertainty around the Chinese tennis player’s whereabouts. The T-shirts worn by the spectator and her companion were later confiscated by security, along with a banner bearing the same slogan.

@drewpavlou

Shocking attack on free speech at the Australian Open yesterday #foryyou #aussie #Drew4Senate

♬ original sound – DrewPavlou

In the video, a police officer is heard stating that Tennis Australia has a rule that there “can’t be any political slogans”.

Over the weekend, the body governing the Australian Open doubled down on this, defending its decision to confiscate the T-shirts and accompanying banners, saying it “does not allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political” at the Australian Open.

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It’s an interesting rule given that the majority of tennis players are sponsored by brands such as Nike, Adidas and Lacoste and, as part of their sponsorship, wear commercial clothing on to the court — not to mention the hordes of fans who turn up to the stands adorned with Tennis Australia-approved branded clothing.

In the video, the point is made that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has spoken out for Peng Shuai, with Steve Simon, WTA chairman and CEO, announcing in December the WTA’s decision to suspend tournaments in China. ESPN reporter Matt Walsh also pointed out on Twitter that during the tournament, Tennis Australia hasn’t had a problem with journalists asking players questions about Peng Shuai.

And while we’re on the topic of hypocrisy, this is the same tournament that began with the Morrison government making a huge political statement with the deportation of world men’s No.1 Novak Djokovic. 

For a good explainer on why many are concerned about the whereabouts and well-being of the Chinese former tennis player, this BBC article is a good summary of what’s going on.