10 July 2022

Where Is Peng Shuai? protester kicked out of Centre Court during men’s final

10 July 2022

A Where Is Peng Shuai? protester has been kicked out of Centre Court by security after trying to shout and hold up a banner from the stands during the men’s singles final at Wimbledon.

Drew Pavlou, 27, tried to enter the stands during the match between Australian Nick Kyrgios and top seed Novak Djokovic.

Kyrgios could be seen turning around in confusion as Mr Pavlou shouted from high up in the stand before promptly being bundled out by security.

Mr Pavlou, who said he had a ticket for the final, told the PA news agency that he held up his banner and shouted: “Where Is Peng Shuai?

“The tennis star has been persecuted by the Chinese government. Why won’t Wimbledon say anything?”

It’s a humanitarian message and I just want more people to see it

Mr Pavlou said a security guard then pushed him so his shins were forced into the row of seats in front of him and they both tumbled into the row in front.

He said the security guard then became “riled up” and that he “then grabbed me and pushed me face-first down the stairs”.

“He smashed my face up against the wall and twisted my arms behind my back, leading me down the stairs,” Mr Pavlou added.

Mr Pavlou, who led the Where Is Peng Shuai campaign at the Australian Open and flew to the UK to share the message at Wimbledon, claimed they said to him: “You’re going to be arrested now.”

But when he was removed from the stadium, the security staff let him go.

The All England Club spokesperson denied excessive force was used.

“A spectator was removed from Centre Court after disrupting play by shouting, running down the stairs and causing a nuisance to their fellow spectators.

“The individual was removed by security colleagues and escorted off the grounds,” they said.

It comes after a group of protesters, mostly from the campaign Free Tibet, have come to Wimbledon this week wearing T-shirts reading: “Where Is Peng Shuai?”

The former Wimbledon doubles champion disappeared from public view last year after she accused a senior Chinese official of sexual assault in November 2021.

On Friday, Mr Pavlou also clashed with security staff on the SW19 grounds when he displayed a banner saying: “Where Is Peng Shuai?”.

The club told him he could hold the sign around the grounds but not on the hill or the courts because of the club’s policy against the size of banners and flags.

Mr Pavlou told PA: “They threatened to call the police on me.”

Wimbledon contested that he was threatened with arrest.

Mr Pavlou said security took issue with the message 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, he said: “I think they’re trying to intimidate me, they are trying to scare me.

A spokesperson for the All England Club on Friday 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.”

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