Four activists wearing shirts in support of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai were searched and questioned while on the grounds at the Wimbledon Championships on Monday.
Jason Leith of the Free Tibet organization said he and three colleagues wore the “Where is Peng Shuai?” shirts as they entered the All England Club. He said they did not have the shirts on when they walked in. After taking pictures with a few people, Leith said they were stopped by security a short time later.
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“We didn’t have these on when we came in because we worried about not being let in. So we put them on, and we were just walking around, and a few people wanted selfies with us, so we were taking pictures with people,” Leith said.
“(They) started asking, ‘Are you planning to do any direct protesting? Are you planning on disrupting things?’ And then they asked, ‘Oh, do you mind coming over here so we can search your bags?’
“So then they started going through our bags. I guess they were looking for flags. They were looking for anything that might be used in any other form of protest.”
Leith said they were allowed to stay on the grounds as long as they did not approach anyone to talk about Peng.
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“That’s a bit strange. Why aren’t we allowed to talk to people?” Leith added.
All England Club CEO Sally Bolton said at the beginning of the tournament that Peng supporters would be allowed to attend.
“We do have ground entry rules, and those ground entry rules are really focused on everyone’s quiet enjoyment of the tennis. So that’s not about what people are wearing; it’s about the way people behave,” Bolton said.
Peng, who won two Grand Slam doubles titles in her career, disappeared from the public eye for months last year after accusing former Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Her accusation was scrubbed from the internet in China.
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Peng has made very few appearances in public since the accusations were made. She made an appearance at the Winter Olympics and spoke to a French newspaper for an interview in February.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.