Former world champion allegedly caught in debt trap
Former Chinese table tennis world champion Zhang Jike reportedly owes massive gambling debts and shared private videos of his ex-girlfriend Jing Tian, a famous Chinese actress.
The news was shared on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, by a veteran investigative reporter named Li Wei'ao. Later, he published a lengthy article about the case on his official WeChat account, Shijia.
The scandal is deepening as brands begin severing ties with the player. Anta, one of the sports brands that Zhang had an existing endorsement deal with, confirmed that they have terminated their cooperation with Zhang.
Zhang's other sponsors, including FAW Toyota, Nutrend and Nivea, have also distanced themselves from him after the allegations surfaced.
Li claimed that he became involved in the case during the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan in 2020, where he worked for more than 60 days and made many friends.
He was later told by some local friends that a man, identified only as "S," had lent Zhang a large amount of money and was trying to collect the debt.
During this time, Zhang gave "S" several private videos of Jing.
"S" later demanded money from the actress, who reported the case to the police.
In December 2020, "S" was found guilty of extortion and sentenced to seven years in prison and a fine of 50,000 yuan (US$7,256).
The claims were refuted in a statement posted on Weibo on Thursday by Zhang's team.
"Zhang has no debt issues, and he has never violated someone's privacy to further his own interests," the statement read. "The rumors are complete fabrications."
Zhang's team also claimed that they had hired a lawyer to compile evidence and bring legal action against those who circulated the false information.
In response to Zhang's statement, Li posted a loan contract that shows the borrower's name as Zhang Jike and the loan amount of 5 million yuan.
According to Deng Xueping of the Shanghai Quandian Law Firm, if Zhang gave private videos to his debtor and conspired with them to extort the actress, he could be charged with extortion.
Zhang, on the other hand, would not be found guilty of extortion if he had just given the videos to his creditors and not planned to extort the actress or done anything else illegal related to the extortion.
Zhang, who was born in Shandong Province in 1988, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Zhang and actress Jing made their relationship public in March 2018. They officially announced their separation in June 2019.