Zhang Jike, 35, who won the gold medal in men’s singles table tennis at the London 2012 Olympics, is under fire in China.
Zhang, who has won more than 10 gold medals at major international table tennis tournaments, including the World Championships and the World Cup, is a national hero in China, and his nearly 180 cm height and sweet face have made him a popular figure on TV since his retirement. The number of followers on the social networking site Weibo is an astounding 12,480,000.
But how on earth did such a major star of China come to be under fire? A Chinese entertainment writer familiar with the situation reveals the following.
It all started with an accusation by Chinese freelance journalist Li Weisswang. Li is a former major media reporter turned freelance journalist who has done a lot of investigative reporting. In April of this year, Li suddenly revealed on his social networking site that Zhang was in debt to the tune of 5 million yuan ($100 million) due to gambling.
Moreover, the accusations by Li were not limited to the national hero’s gambling addiction.
In 2006, Zhang was found to be romantically involved with actress Jing Tian (Jing Tian, 34). Jing Tian is a top actress who has appeared in popular domestic dramas and Hollywood blockbusters, so the couple attracted a lot of attention as a ‘big couple. The two have already broken up, but to his surprise, Li accused Zhang of pledging sexual videos with Jing Tian, his former girlfriend, as collateral and borrowing money for gambling.
According to Li’s accusation, Zhang provided the video with Jing Tian to an acquaintance named S. S was arrested for using the video to threaten Jing Tian and force him to repay the debt on Zhang’s behalf.
S was reportedly arrested and charged with the threats and subsequently tried and convicted to seven years in prison.” According to Li, Zhang also appeared as a witness at S’s trial. He testified that he had taken sexual videos during the period of his relationship with Jing Bean and that he had shown the videos to S.”
In response to these accusations by Li, a massive bashing of Zhang has erupted on Chinese social networking sites. Zhang had been featured in several advertisements for well-known companies in China, but the companies have withdrawn their advertisements across the board.
Zhang’s office said, “All of these accusations are untrue. We will take legal action. However, Li said, ‘We have checked all the judicial documents, and these are all true,’ and he even posted a RMB 5 million IOU with Zhang’s handwritten signature on it. In China, Zhang is strongly viewed as black, and his image has been shattered. Currently, the video of Jing Tian has not been leaked on the Internet, but there is no telling what will happen in the future if the furor does not subside. Many people are concerned about her mental state.
An unprecedented scandal has fallen on a Chinese hero. If Zhang takes legal action as he says he will, it is likely that the truth will be challenged in court.
Photo： Afro (Jing Tian) Kyodo News (Zhang Jike)