TAIPEI • Chinese players on the LPGA Tour have pulled out of this week's Taiwan Championship at the 11th hour, allegedly after being told by someone "high up" in China to skip the event, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
World No. 9 Feng Shanshan and rookie Liu Yu were reportedly informed during last week's event in Shanghai that they should not play in the US$2.2 million (S$3 million) Taipei event, which starts tomorrow and ends on Sunday.
China, which views self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province, has ramped up pressure to assert its sovereignty and ties have deteriorated since 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen came to power.
And the ill-feeling between China and Taiwan occasionally engulfs sporting events.
In July, China blamed "independence activists" for the cancellation of an Olympic event in Taiwan, shrugging off Taipei's accusation that Beijing's "political bullying" was behind the revocation of its right to host a youth game.
It is unclear who told Feng and Liu, the only two Chinese golfers confirmed for the tournament, not to attend, but, barring injury, it is highly unusual for players to withdraw at such a late stage.
One source said event officials had no plans to fine the players for withdrawing so late in the day, "given the circumstances".
A media officer for the LPGA told Reuters he was aware the two players had pulled out, but did not elaborate on the reason.
Until Monday, the picture profiles of both Feng and Liu figured on the tournament's official website and the LPGA had listed their names in the "final field", but by yesterday, both had been erased from the website.
Ruby Chen, the Shanghai-based agent for both Feng and Liu, told Reuters yesterday that the golfers would not be attending, but declined to expand on the reason for their non-participation. However, she denied that any pressure had been put on them.
When contacted by Reuters, the General Administration of Sport of China claimed it had no idea about the incident and referred queries to the China Golf Association, which did not answer any calls seeking comment.