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Peng supporters hand out T-shirts at Open

A group ejected from the Australian Open earlier this week for wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ T-shirts have attempted to hand out 1000 of the same shirts ahead of the women’s final at Melbourne Park.

Several people handed out the shirts at the Olympic Boulevard entrance to the Open, along with yellow ribbons and yellow stickers that said ‘missing’ in Mandarin, attempting to raise awareness regarding concerns over former doubles world No.1 Peng’s wellbeing.

The Melbourne-based group hoped people would wear the white T-shirts in the crowd on Saturday night and their black slogan would be visible on the broadcast in Australia and around the world.

“There’ll be people wearing the shirts. When the camera pans around, hopefully they’ll get on the broadcast,” one of the group’s organisers, Drew Pavlou, told AAP.

“I hope that millions of people across the world when they’re watching the Australian Open final tonight, they see Peng Shuai’s name, and they realise that we’re still raising awareness for her, she’s still missing. She’s still not safe.

“We just want to keep on trying to raise awareness for her until we know that she’s safe, she’s able to speak freely, without the Chinese government minding her, controlling what she’s saying.”

Peng effectively disappeared from public view for nearly three weeks in November, following a social media post where she accused former China vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

The WTA subsequently withdrew tournaments from China, citing concerns over Peng’s safety.

The International Olympic Committee has had several conversations with Peng, while last month the 36-year-old said she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and a social media post she had made had been misunderstood.

But it hasn’t allayed concerns over Peng’s wellbeing.

The Melbourne-based activist group decided to go big with their T-shirt efforts when organiser and activist Max Mok and two others were ejected from Melbourne Park last weekend, with security citing a tournament rule barring ‘political messaging’.

Tennis Australia later reversed the ban on the T-shirts, though banners are not permitted.

“They capitulated because they weren’t going to evict 1000 people from the final,” Pavlou said.

An hour before the final commenced, the group had given away close to 800 of the T-shirts and once the box was empty, several planned to head into Rod Laver Arena for the match.

“I’ve got three tickets to the final. We’re going in,” Pavlou said.

“So hopefully, we’ll have 1000 people in there. I really hope so.”

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