An activist who shouted “Where is Peng Shuai?” and held up a sign with the same message was removed from center court in the men’s Wimbledon final on Sunday.
Drew Pavlou, an activist who made a similar protest at the Australian Open this year, said he shouted the message during stoppage time and was then forcibly removed from the stadium.
“I didn’t want to disrupt the game itself, so I waited to make sure there was a break in play, then just held up a sign that said ‘Where is Peng Shuai? ‘” Pavlou told The Associated Press. “And I just said, ‘Where is Peng Shuai? This Chinese tennis star is persecuted by the Chinese government. Why is Wimbledon not saying anything? »
Peng is a retired professional tennis player from China who accused a former high-ranking member of the country’s ruling Communist Party of sexual assault last year. She has made very few public appearances since then.
On Monday, four activists wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” The T-shirts were stopped by security at Wimbledon and their bags searched.
Pavlou said he smuggled the sign onto the All England Club pitch by folding it up and hiding it in his shoe. He also had a T-shirt with the message tucked into the waist of his jeans.
He shouted the protest at the start of the third set of the match between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios. Djokovic eventually beat Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“I tried to be as strong as possible,” said Pavlou, who is Australian. “I shouted it because I wanted people to hear it.”
Pavlou said security threw him to the ground, then four of them held him down with his arms behind his back and brought him to a public area off center court. He said he was then told to leave the premises.
He tried to return soon after, but was told by a security guard that his tickets had been cancelled.
The All England Club said Pavlou was sent off “after disrupting play by shouting, running down stairs and disturbing other spectators”.
At the Australian Open, a spectator was ejected from the court for wearing a t-shirt supporting Peng, but the tournament later reversed its decision and allowed people to wear the clothes until they congregated in large groups or did not cause problems for others. spectators.
Peng disappeared from public view last year after accusing former Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. His accusation was quickly scrubbed from the internet and his discussion remains heavily censored.
Peng has won two Grand Slam women’s doubles titles in her career, including at Wimbledon in 2013.
The women’s professional tennis circuit has canceled its tournaments in China due to the situation around Peng.
More AP Wimbledon coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/wimbledon and https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports