Written by Staff Writer, BBC News
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has announced it will immediately suspend its spring tournaments in China following this weekend’s protests by local police against an anti-corruption protest.
The boycott came as part of a wider campaign by workers in Chinese manufacturing plants, who were angry about threats from the communist government against those who challenge regulations on their working conditions.
However, later in the day China’s ruling Communist Party issued a statement rejecting claims that authorities had persecuted anyone over the issue.
World No.22 Peng Shuai, a former top 10 player, announced earlier this month that she would boycott two matches this week and suspend her WTA commitments until after the July 4 celebrations.
The protests took place outside the busy Grand Hyatt in Shanghai and involved workers at two factories which supply Foxconn, a major manufacturing company that is the world’s largest contract manufacturer and has had a recent history of worker unrest.
Protests and vandalism
Among those to hold signs was Wu Rongrong, 30, a former Foxconn employee from Foshan in the southern Guangdong province. “Workers can’t strike here because Foxconn has a so-called work order that workers can only do jobs given by management,” she told local newspaper the Free Daily News.
On Monday, Chinese media and internet commentators reported images of more than a dozen policemen wearing helmets having clashed with hundreds of protesters, some of whom were seen destroying at least one police vehicle.
“The WTA saw the unfolding events on May 1, commended them and congratulated them for wanting to defend the rights of others,” the trade body said in a statement on Monday.
“We have suspended those four tournaments until May 31 in order to give time for dialogue with labor organizations, the Chinese government and others and to assess further actions.”
The suspension is unlikely to provide much comfort to players attending this week’s Shanghai Masters, who will include the likes of Australian Open runner-up, Naomi Osaka.
As well as being due to play a first-round match against rising Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, world No.32 Osaka will face fellow Chinese top 10 player Zhang Shuai in a quarter-final match.
However, some were more welcoming of the decision.
“It does get somewhat hypocritical when it’s talked about as all about equality,” said Andy Murray, who represented Great Britain at the London Olympics in 2012.
“But the women’s game is so competitive that if there’s 50-50 issues, then I think it’s a pretty easy decision to take.”
Women in China
Foxconn said its 1.2 million workers, who account for about a quarter of the global workforce, will continue to be paid “simply and fairly” in a statement, according to a statement on the company’s official website.
The previous day, however, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou had become the latest to speak out against the protests.
Speaking to state news agency Xinhua, he said: “As long as people are able to eat, they are able to go out and have fun, that’s not the issue, it’s about working conditions.
“If you don’t allow (Foxconn workers) to work in conditions of safety and decent conditions, then obviously you cannot treat them as equally as we do.”
News4Jax reports from the world of tennis