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Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

What's happening: The Women's Tennis Association told AP that fears for the safety of Peng Shuai, the Chinese champion who accused a former Communist Party official of sexual assault, could result in cancellations beyond 2022.

  • WTA President and CEO Steve Simon said: "This is ... about what’s right and wrong."
  • In the NBA, the Boston Celtics' Enes Kanter, who changed his last name to "Freedom" this week after becoming a U.S. citizen, has used social media to relentlessly protest human-rights violations in China.

Contrast that with billionaire Ray Dalio — legendary investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund — who told Andrew Ross Sorkin yesterday on CNBC's "Squawk Box" when asked about Peng Shuai and China's human rights issues:

  • "I can't be an expert in those types of things," Dalio said. "I look to whatever the rules are."
  • "So the guidance of the government is the most important thing."

Context: The Wall Street Journal, calling Dalio a "longtime China bull," reported Nov. 24 that Bridgewater raised $1.25 billion for its third investment fund in China, making it one of the "biggest foreign managers of private funds in the world’s second-largest economy."

Dalio added on CNBC: "I look at the United States and I say: 'Well, what's going on in the United States, and should I not invest in the United States because [of] our own human rights issues?'"

  • "I'm not trying to make political comparisons. I'm basically just trying to follow the rules."

When Sorkin pointed out that the U.S. "isn't disappearing people" like the Chinese government, Dalio replied: "As a top-down country ... they behave like a strict parent."

  • "If I ... evaluated all approaches around the world in all countries, I'd be in a bind to try to find out ... where do I invest."

Zoom out: In Hong Kong, where Beijing has become increasingly heavy-handed, the Disney+ streaming service apparently censored the episode of "The Simpsons" with Homer visiting Tiananmen Square. (BBC)

Go deeper: Axios reported this week that Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government. Read the investigation.

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Go deeper

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

What to expect at the Beijing 2022 Games

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Winter Games are just six months away, kicking off in Beijing on Feb. 4.

Why it matters: Beijing will become the first city that has hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and it will do so when the virus that originated in China will still be wreaking havoc on the world.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

HRW criticizes Biden over "mixed signals" on human rights

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch criticized President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations for sending "mixed signals" on human rights in its annual World Report published on Thursday, saying they "are not meeting the challenges before them."

Why it matters: Though Biden pledged to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that weapon sales to repressive governments and public reticence on certain human rights violations place those promises in question.

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