Calls grow for authorities to look into possible criminal offenses in former world champion Zhang Jike's alleged scandal
Published: Apr 05, 2023 09:58 PM
Zhang Jike Photo: VCG

Zhang Jike Photo: VCG

The controversy over former Chinese table tennis superstar and world champion Zhang Jike continued to make headlines, as media and netizens demanded investigations to find out whether any laws were broken. 

Zhang Jike, one of the most well-known players in table tennis, has a major fan base in China and is one of the most commercially valuable sports stars in China. He is a three-time Olympic gold-medalist, has been crowned world champion seven times and is a six-time ITTF World Cup singles and doubles champion.

Posts about Zhang's alleged misdeeds started circulating on several online platforms over the weekend, claiming that he was once several million yuan in debt as a result of gambling. Zhang allegedly sent his creditor private videos of his ex-girlfriend, a famous Chinese actress. It was unclear whether Zhang did so intentionally so that the creditor could use the videos to collect the debt from the actress.

The actress allegedly reported the extortion to the police, and the creditor who tried to use the videos to blackmail her was put into jail, according to social media accounts of Li Weiao, who claimed to have investigated the matter as a reporter. 

According to Li, Zhang testified in court in the extortion case and admitted that he had filmed the private videos of his ex-girlfriend himself and that he got to know the creditor in Southeast Asia.

These allegations could not be immediately verified by the Global Times.

Following major Chinese sportswear brand Anta and Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota, more brands that have worked with Zhang announced that they will take corresponding measures after the scandal. 

Butterfly, a major brand in the table tennis industry from Japan, announced Wednesday on its website that due to gambling suspicions, they would take down the information on Zhang as well as his products and equipment from the group's websites and suspend the delivery of any products using his images from the group until the situation is resolved. 

So far, other brands that have taken similar measures include Safeguard, Runbaiyan and Inoherb. 

Zhu Wei, a communications researcher at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Wednesday that according to the relevant laws and regulations in China, a star's promotional materials and advertisements should be removed if he or she has been revealed to have conducted any violations during the endorsement period.  

During the period of the contract, if the company knows that the star has committed illegal acts such as taking drugs, gambling, drunk driving, obscenity, tax evasion or fraud, even if the company does not cancel the endorsement contract, the advertisements in question are naturally deemed to be against good social customs and should be removed, Zhu explained.

He also noted that, based on current information revealed on social media, the case may be related to other violations, or even criminal offenses. 

Gambling is banned in the Chinese mainland. According to lawyers, anybody arranging for Chinese mainland residents to go overseas to gamble in order to make money would be committing a crime, reported 

Helping Chinese mainland residents open overseas accounts to provide financial guarantees for them to gamble overseas would also be considered illegal. This means that Zhang's creditor may have committed a crime if he lent money to Zhang knowing he would use the money to gamble overseas, reported. 

Zhang has reduced his participation in professional competitions in recent years, and has taken part in several variety shows and signed several brand endorsement contracts.

In an editorial article published on its WeChat public account on Monday, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee on Monday urged the departments involved to investigate the incident and make the results public as soon as possible.

No one will receive special treatment due to their "special status" as equality under the law applies to all, the article said, while noting that disinformation and slander will also not be tolerated.