Australian Open Fans Barred From Entry Over ‘Where Is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at
January 23, 2022Updated: January 23, 2022

Tennis Australia’s security has stopped two spectators from entering Melbourne Park for the Australian Open after they refused to remove their shirts featuring a message supporting female Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

On Friday, Australian human rights activist Drew Pavlou uploaded a video on Twitter in which his friend Max Mok and another tennis fan were approached by security.

The video shows a security guard saying to the pair that their T-shirts and banner with “Where is Peng Shuai?” written on them were not allowed as people are “not supposed to bring in political statements into the tournament.” Security confiscated the banner, but the pair refused to take off their T-shirts.

Police were then called. They also told the tennis fans: “The Australian Open does have a rule that you can’t have political slogans … it’s a rule that it’s a condition of entry.

Mok then made a call to Pavlou, who is heard arguing with police over the phone that it was not political to express concern for a “female tennis player being persecuted.” Mok and Pavlou are both running for a Senate seat in Australia’s 2022 federal election.

“Tennis Australia does set the rules, and regardless of what you’re saying—and I’m not saying you can’t have those views—but I am saying that Tennis Australia sets the rules here,” the officer replied.

The video has received 52,000 views on TikTok.

Pavlou said on Twitter that almost A$7,000 ($5025) has been raised within 24 hours on GoFundMe following the incident, which will be used to print “hundreds upon hundreds of Free Peng Shuai shirts to hand out at the entrance to the Australian Open women’s final.”

A Tennis Australia spokesperson told The Epoch Times that they backed the security and police’s actions, but stated that Peng Shuai’s safety is the organisation’s “primary concern.”

“Under our ticket conditions of entry, we don’t allow clothing, banners, or signs that are commercial or political,” the spokesperson said.

“Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being.”

Meanwhile, Victoria Police told The Epoch Times that police has engaged with the patrons “in support of security, referencing the conditions of entry as they exited the venue.”

“As part of the conditions of entry to the Open, nothing politically motivated can be displayed,” they said.

In 2018, Tennis Australia coined a five-year commercial deal with Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency. It also has partnerships with three major Chinese sponsors: Liquor brand Luzhou Laojiao, Shenzhzen water company Ganten Food & Beverage and China-based bedding company DeRUCCI.

“China has 330 million tennis fans; there are 220 million Australian Open fans in China; 14 million regular tennis players and 30,000 tennis courts—a number that’s increasing all the time,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said in 2018.

Peng Shuai accused China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her when she was younger in November. She retracted the comment after a series of odd messages, and since then has only been sighted a handful of times via Chinese social media.

One of the most vocal athletes on Peng Shuai, Naomi Osaka, who is ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association, said on Jan. 20 that the tennis community has “come together” in looking out for Peng Shuai’s safety.

“I imagine myself in her shoes, and in that way, it’s a little bit scary,” the Japanese tennis player noted. “You kind of want to lend your voice and you want people to, you know, ask the questions.”