A Peng Shuai supporter was booted from the Wimbledon final Sunday between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios after causing a disruption during a break in the action.
Drew Pavlou, an activist, shouted, “Where is Peng Shuai?” during a break in play. He was tackled by security and told to leave the grounds. He shouted the message in the third set.
“I didn’t want to disrupt the actual match itself so I waited to make sure there was a break in the play and then I just basically held up a sign saying ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’” Pavlou told The Associated Press. “And I just said, ‘Where is Peng Shuai? This Chinese tennis star is being persecuted by the Chinese government. Why won’t Wimbledon say something?’”
Pavlou said he brought the sign onto the grounds by folding it up and hiding it in his shoe. He also had a T-shirt with the message tucked into the waistline of his jeans.
“I tried to be as loud as possible,” he said. “I screamed it because I wanted people to hear it.”
Pavlou said security wrestled him to the ground and then four of them restrained him with his arms behind his back. He was brought to a public area just outside Centre Court and was then told to leave the grounds. When he tried to re-enter, he was told his tickets had been canceled.
Pavlou also commented on the incident on Twitter.
“The Chinese Government tried to wipe Peng Shuai from the face of the Earth because she came out and accused a top CCP official of sexual assault. And the saddest thing is they have almost been successful in making everyone forget about her. I just don’t want people to forget,” he wrote.
“I’m sorry that I disrupted the match for 30 seconds, I tried to pick a break in between games to silently hold up my #WhereIsPengShuai sign but security immediately crash tackled me which is why I shouted out so people would hear Peng Shuai’s name on the broadcast.”
He added that he was “thrown down the stairs” by security guards and his head was “smashed” into the wall.
The All England Club said Pavlou was removed “after disrupting play by shouting, running down the stairs and causing a nuisance to their fellow spectators.”
The incident came days after of Peng Shuai supporters were questioned by Wimbledon security guards.
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.
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.