Protestors raising awareness for the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who disappeared from public view last year, were threatened by Wimbledon security earlier today, who almost called the police on them.
Two protestors arrived at the iconic south London championship on Friday to raise awareness for the Chinese tennis player.
Peng Shuai vanished from the public eye last year after she accused a senior Chinese official of sexual assault in November 2021.
Dave Pavlou, who led the campaign at the Australian Open and flew to the UK just to share the message at Wimbledon, was wearing a Where Is Peng Shuai? T-shirt And holding a sign with the same message.
Peng Shuai won the women's doubles championship in 2013 Rebecca Speare-Cole
Fellow protestors, Caleb Compton, 27, from the Free Tibet campaign, opted for plain clothes, documenting the ordeal on his phone.
A member of the Wimbledon security staff was seen talking to the two protestors by the big screens on Court One, in front of the hill, while other security individuals stood close by.
Mr Pavlou shared his distressing ordeal saying: "They threatened to call the police on me.”
Despite claims, Wimbledon denied they threatened the protestors with arrest.
Mr Pavlou said security deemed the protest as being “political”, and they asked him to put down the sign.
He said: “I don’t think this is a political statement. I don’t think it is a divisive statement. It’s a humanitarian message and I just want more people to see it.”
Speaking about the group of security standing nearby, the campaign organiser said: “I think they’re trying to intimidate me, they are trying to scare me.
Will Hoyles, 39, Caleb Compton, 27, and Jason Leith, 34, who all work for Free Tibet who have come to Wimbledon to draw attention to Peng Shuai Rebecca Speare-Cole
“I’m not disrupting anyone, I’m a completely peaceful protester, I’m not disrupting any of the matches, I’m not disrupting any spectators, I’m not even yelling, I’m literally standing here with a sign saying Where Is Peng Shuai?”
“This is a humanitarian statement,” he added.
Mr Pavlou asserted that when he told the security staff that he did not believe it was a political statement, the man said: “The Chinese government say it’s a political statement.”
Later, one of the security staff approached the pair again and said Mr Pavlou would be able to hold the sign on the grounds but not on the hill or the courts because of the club’s policy against the size of banners and flags.
A protestor brandishes the sign stating 'Where is Peng Shuai?' Zac Goodwin
But Mr Pavlou then moved to a different area of the hill, arguing again that he is a “peaceful protester”.
He later said he is “disappointed in Wimbledon’s reaction today to our peaceful protest”.
“We remain defiant and we refuse to be bullied by Wimbledon security or any of their Chinese sponsors,” he said.
At the time, an All England Club spokesperson confirmed that security approached the group outside No. 1 Court, highlighting how the individuals were then left to “enjoy their day” and wear their T-shirts.
Responding to the two protesters on Friday, they said: “As is entirely in keeping with our security protocols and ‘Conditions of Entry’, a guest holding a banner was approached by security colleagues to discuss their intentions.
“They were not threatened with arrest and continue to enjoy their day with us on the grounds.
“Like much of the tennis community and people around the world more broadly, we remain very concerned for Peng Shuai and we continue to support the WTA’s efforts.”
35-year-old Ms Peng is a prominent figure in Chinese tennis with almost $10million (£8.4million) in career prize money.
She made her career debut in 2001 and has since gone onto win 25 titles in singles and doubles, also competing in three olympic games.
The tennis player disappeared at the end of last year, after posting a 1,600 word post on Weibo in November, Ms Peng said she had a romantic relationship with former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and that he had "forced" her to have sexual relations with him.
Ms Peng acknowledged that she will not be able to provide any proof to back up her claims.
"I have no evidence, and it has been impossible to leave any evidence... You were always afraid that I would bring something like a tape recorder, to record evidence or something... There is no audio record, no video record, only my distorted but very real experience."