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Activists with ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ They were looking for T-shirts at Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Four activists wearing “Where’s Peng Shuai?” T-shirts were stopped by security at Wimbledon on Monday and had their bags searched.

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Peng is a former professional tennis player from China who last year accused a former high-ranking member of the country’s ruling Communist Party of sexual assault. Since then, she has made very few public appearances.

A similar episode happened to someone wearing a Peng-endorsed T-shirt at this year’s Australian Open. A spectator in Melbourne was removed from the grounds, but the tournament later reversed its decision and allowed people to wear clothing as long as they did not congregate in large groups or cause problems for other spectators.

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Free Tibet’s Jason Leith said he and his three colleagues donned white T-shirts after entering the grounds of the All England Club on Monday.

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“When we came in, we weren’t wearing them because we were afraid they wouldn’t let us in. So we put them on and we walked around and a few people wanted selfies with us, so we took pictures with people.” said Leith, who is British.

Security arrived shortly after as the four men walked under the big screen at the Henman Hill base, Leith said.

“(They started) asking, ‘Are you planning any direct protests? Are you planning to disrupt things?” Leith asked. “And then they asked, ‘Oh, do you mind coming here for us to search your bags?’

“So then they started going through our bags. They were probably looking for flags. They were looking for anything that could be used in any other form of protest.”

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The men were allowed to remain at the grass Grand Slam and continue to wear their T-shirts, but were asked not to approach other spectators and talk about Peng, Leith said.

“That’s a little strange. Why aren’t we allowed to talk to the people?” said Leith, head of revenue and engagement at Free Tibet.

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Wimbledon organizers said activists could stay put.

All England Club CEO Sally Bolton said on Day 1 of the tournament that a spectator wearing a Peng T-shirt would be allowed to participate.

“We have ground rules, and those ground rules are really aimed at the peaceful enjoyment of tennis for everyone,” Bolton said. “So it’s not about what people wear; it’s about how people behave.”

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Peng disappeared from the public eye last year after accusing former Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Her accusation was quickly deleted from the Internet, and discussion of it remains heavily censored.

Peng has won two Grand Slam women’s doubles titles in her career, including Wimbledon in 2013.

The women’s professional tennis tour has canceled its tournaments in China due to the situation surrounding Peng.

Last year, Leith was arrested in Greece for disrupting the Olympic flame ceremony. Plamen headed to China ahead of this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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