Li refuses to dive into political controversy

Li refuses to dive into political controversy

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Li refuses to dive into political controversy

Li Na remains tight-lipped about the political crisis between China and Japan. AP photo

Chinese star Li Na remained tight-lipped yesterday about her decision to participate in Japan’s Pan Pacific Open this week as a political crisis between the two countries deepens.

Last year’s French Open winner remained stoney-faced and refused to respond to a series of questions about the row over tiny islands in the East China Sea, causing moments of awkward silence.

Li only acknowledged that she was following a tour schedule that was set nearly a year ago, while officials at the $2.17 million tournament stood by to block questions with any hint of diplomatic connotations.

Tokyo’s nationalization of the islands this month, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, sparked violent rallies across China.

Sporting fixtures between the two countries have been abandoned.

Competitors from Japan are staying away from table tennis, cycling, rugby sevens and ice hockey events hosted by China, while Chinese badminton players and archers have pulled out of Tokyo-based events, citing safety fears.

Li appeared to relax a bit when asked about the sport.

“After the US Open, I wished I could have a long break. But I started training because I just found a new coach,” she said.

“We need time to communicate. I know my goal is to be in the [year-ending WTA] championships [in Istanbul]. There is not much time left. I have to work hard, even more than before,” she said.