Men’s tennis star accused of sexual assault after winning China Open

Written by by Chrissy Lee, CNN

Following his arrest this week for alleged sexual assault, the online threats have stopped. But not the uproar.

Sports organizations have declined to say whether the Chinese tennis star, Shi Zhijie, is suspended, citing privacy reasons. And the official feminist groups that have championed women’s rights for years are silent about the case.

Shi, 22, has been in the spotlight this year after winning the China Open — the last Grand Slam tournament of the season, an unprecedented feat for the ATP-ranked player.

The dismissal of the case “surprises nobody and confirms the Chinese justice system,” said Yin You, the head of the Gender Rights Foundation in China.

Tennis is a lucrative sport in China and tennis stars like Shi are highly visible. In an interview with CNN in November, Shi addressed questions about his motivations for becoming a top player.

On Friday, police said Shi had been arrested for alleged sexual assault of a 47-year-old woman in the southwestern city of Chongqing, more than a month after his alleged victim made the allegations.

According to Xinhua, police said Shi struck the woman’s feet with his shoe and one of his fingers, and kissed and groped her for nearly an hour.

The woman had said that Shi, when drunk, had forced her into his bed, according to the Chongqing Evening News.

Shi has denied the allegations.

No suspension

The Women’s Tennis Association said it was taking the matter seriously, but is prohibited from making further statements until Shi’s case has concluded.

However, “it is true to say that no suspension for Shi Zhijie has been issued,” the WTA said in a statement to CNN on Thursday.

Yin said Shi’s case highlighted the need for a gender equality policy that clearly defines terms like sexual assault, domestic violence and violence against women.

According to Yin, the lack of a comprehensive policy prevents the justice system from making proper decision about women’s issues.

The China Tennis Association said it’s closely monitoring the case.

Yunmei Chang, a spokeswoman with the Guangzhou-based Red Rose Foundation, also said the lack of a policy prevents proper procedures and allows cases to become “over-generalized.”

Female athletes face a particularly tough time in China. In 2012, athlete Ma Long was sentenced to two years in prison after he was accused of assault and cheating on his wife, according to Tinghua News.

Neither Li Na nor Svetlana Kuznetsova have faced this kind of scrutiny or allegations in their careers.

Li and Kuznetsova are the only tennis players in history to win titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments, only Li having achieved the feat twice.

Both players have, in recent years, spoken out about how the influence of money has changed tennis in China. In particular, Li has been outspoken about how the infiltration of money had affected the media coverage of the game in the country.

“Maybe sport (media) is right for these days but not the years,” Li said in an interview with Apple Daily in 2016.

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