Australian open kick-started last week on a volatile note with all the limelight falling on Novak Djokovic. The circumstances ahead of the Australian open were peppered with controversy as the unvaccinated Serb betted his chance for a historic 21st grand slam. But his hopes got dashed as the almost unbeatable tennis maestro was expelled from the country following his lengthy scuffle with the rules of the Australian government.
The Djokovic saga remains a closed chapter. As things head back to a normal path, the Australian open has again set up the stage for more such discussions and polemics to unfold. The latest is the uproar following the removal of a spectator from the stands for wearing a t-shirt in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
What is it to do with a T-shirt?
Max Mok was the fan who got ejected from the Australian Open following his protest backing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. Max found in Australian Open a perfect space to raise the message of concern for the top-tier Olympian from China. The message didn’t go unnoticed and rather took the tournament to a halt.
Along with Mok many other activists also made their way into the tournament with t-shirts branded with the caption “Where is Peng Shuai?”. Footages also emerged which showed security officials asking a fan to remove the shirt blazing the picture of Peng Shuai. This event provoked widespread anger and condemnation among critics.
Mok along with the other three activists has been routing for a chance to bring the case of Peng Shuai to a deserved attention among the public. They have been collecting money to kick start their small activism by printing and distributing t-shirts with an eye-catching message. The main aim was to just encourage more players to come up in support of Peng Shuai.
With the video footage going viral, the ‘small activism’ for Mok and team reaped in support to Peng Shuai from all nooks and corners of the world. The message got carried around.
“It was never planned. It was a coincidence,” Mok commented after the campaign garnered huge attention.
The Peng Shuai saga
Peng Shuai was a former no 1 ranked doubles player who tasted glory at both Wimbledon and the revered French open. She got dropped away from public view after she fought an accusation against a top-ranked Chinese official Zhang Gaoli. The case was attributed to sexual assault.
Right after her accusation which did create some waves within the CCP cabals, Peng evaded from public view tending WTA to cancel all top tournaments including the prized season-ending championships. It elicited no surprise since it was china that holds a track record of conducting mysterious disappearances of Personalities who tend to oppose the party’s viewpoint. Just see the fate of jack ma.
In recent times, the increasingly regressive China has found a new adversary in Australia. The fact that the support for Peng Shuai sprouted out in the soil of Australia leaves more options for China to feel enraged. Australia under the leadership of Scott Morrison has taken lead in many difficult decisions and has been the first country to put the spotlight on the threats possessed by the tech giant Huawei group and along came his request for an independent probe into the origins of coronavirus.
Be it for the AUKUS deal with the UK and US or the Quad exercise along with India down in the south pacific, Australia has been in the front line setting a bulwark against the Chinese autonomy in trade and military practices. Moreover, Canberra has been successful in its bid to raise the voices of protest against Chinese authoritarianism as people now feel safe to put Chinese in the dock and they also tend to view every move of China with deep scepticism.
Taking heed of the events tennis legend Martina Navratilova, a three-time Australian Open singles champion, posted a tweet saying: “That’s just pathetic. The @wta stands pretty much alone on this!!!”
Tennis Australia also had to give up its silence “Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to do everything we can to ensure her well-being,”
China remains unruffled about the criticism as Xi shifted his focus on the vanity project, the winter Olympics. Nevertheless, the new voice in Australia has garnered pace and the political messaging in a branding shirt has indeed triggered the politically sensitive Communist party of China.