Finding A Husband For "Chinese Traitor" He Zhili

(yWeekend)  Ye Yonglie unwittingly became a "Chinese traitor" on behalf of He Zhili.  By Yan Xueling (颜雪岭).  March 8, 2007.


2005, He Zhili visiting Ye Yonglie at his home


1994 Asian Games, Chire Koyama meets Deng Yaping in the finals

[in translation]

"It is not easy to find a boyfriend for He Zhili (何智丽).  The man must have good looks and character, and he must possess at least 10 million RMB in wealth."

While Ye Yonglie (叶永烈) is giving his thoughts to the reporter this side, the netizens are cursing their hearts out on the other side -- "Famous writer tries to find husband for Chinese traitor."  The trouble was caused by Ye Yonglie's essay <He Zhili -- I want to have a family> that was suspected of being a marriage advertisement on behalf of He Zhili.  Within one week, Ye Yonglie's blog at Sina.com received more than 1 million hits and almost 10,000 comments.

Ye Yonglie does not mind being scolded on account of He Zhili.  Their friendship began twenty years ago when Ye Yonglie interviewed He Zhili about the hidden practice of "match throwing" in table tennis.

Ye Yonglie told this reporter about those interviews in detail and said that the tradition of "match throwing or fixing" has continued to today.

Q: You recently wrote the essay <He Zhili -- I want to have a family> and many netizens are cursing you.
A: I know.  After the essay was published by <Xinmin Weekly>, it was quickly posted at EastDay.com.  I went there to look.  There were more than 500 comments within two hours.  Some of these angry young men were cursing very hard.  I had stepped on a landmine inadvertently.  Ha ha.

Some netizen voices:

Ye Yonglie, it is not good for your reputation to be mixed up with a Chinese traitor!

Great writer Ye, I used to admire you.  But since you defend Chire Koyama, I must boycott you like I boycott Japanese goods.

Mr. Ye lets his personal feelings overcome his sense of national righteousness.  That is very unwise!

In order to let Zhuang Zedong win three championships in a row, Li Furong also made the identical sacrifice.  There is nothing wrong with putting the national interests ahead!

Q: You probably did not expect to create such a huge stir?
A: I did not expect it.  He Zhili had been out of the public eye all these years.  She is a person on the margin.  <Xinmin Weekly> only has a circulation of 50,000 copies.  I did not expect that the Internet would have such an impact.  My blog essay has drawn almost 1 million hits.

Q: Are you happy with so many hits?
A: Of course I am delighted.  Every writer wants attention for his work.

Q: Even if you are cursed?
A: I have weathered many storms before.  When I wrote about Wang Li of the Party Central's "Cultural Revolution" group, I also did something useful.  Everybody was unhappy that I wrote positively about this Cultural Revolution stalwart.  When they criticized Wang Li, they also criticized me.  The reaction was much more stronger back then.

Q: Are you afraid of being called a "Chinese traitor"?
A: I don't care.  I am more concerned about those screaming netizens.  We Chinese people should not be of that level of quality.  Lang Ping (
郎平) is leading the American women's volleyball team and will likely meet the Chinese women in the Olympics.  How are you going to curse out Lang Ping?  Zhu Jun (诸宸 ) is representing Qatar.  What kind of traitor will they call him?  I feel that the citizens of a grand natural ought to have magnanimity and tolerance.

Q: You are not angry at being "dragged into this" by He Zhili.  You must have a pretty good friendship.
A: We have known each other for twenty years.  In 1987, I interviewed He Zhili over the hidden story of "match fixing" in table tennis.  Previously, nobody had ever exposed the inside story of "match fixing" in table tennis.  He Zhili was very grateful to me, because I wrote everything that she wanted to say.

[At the 37th World Table Tennis Championships in 1987, He Zhili won the women's singles championship.  Afterwards, Ye Yonglie wrote an essay that revealed that her championship came because she refused to "throw away the match."  At the time, the coaching staff arranged for her to lose to teammate Guan Jianhua (管建华) in the semi-final match.  But He Zhili defeated Guan Jianhua without announcing her intention beforehand, and then she won in the final.  Afterwards, He Zhili was ordered to make self-criticisms and she was also dropped from the Olympic team the next year.]

Q: You wrote about many political history figures.  So how did you end up interviewing He Zhili?
A: Among those whom I have interviewed, He Zhili was quite unusual.  Basically, I interview old people who are 70 or 80 years old and with heads of white hair, such as Chen Bada and Wang Li.
It was in June 1987, three months after the 37th World Table Tennis Championships.  A reporter from <Liberation Daily> asked me whether I dared to report on a certain matter.  He told me that the newspaper had disclosed in their internal reference news report that He Zhili refused to throw the match away to Guan Jianhua at the World Table Tennis Championships.  She won the championship but had to make self-criticisms.  I was very shocked when I heard that.

Q: How come the other sports reporters did not dare to report this?
A: Most sport reporters would not dare poke into this hornets' nest.  Sports reporters all want to travel overseas.  If you were disrespectful towards the state sports committee, then sorry, you are not going to be allowed to attend the next international competition.  But I was a professional writer with the Shanghai Writers Association.  I had nothing to do with sports, so I was not afraid.

Q: How did you contact He Zhili?
A: Shanghai Xinmin Evening News reporter Zhang Wei went through his friends at the Shanghai municipal sports committee and helped me get the contact information for He Zhili.
At first, she was unwilling to be interviewed.  She thought that match-fixing was a sensitive topic that could get her into trouble.  I told her that I did not come for a news report.  I was trying to write documentary literature and I would write with care.  I met with her at the old home of her parents on Jiaozhou road in Shanghai.  I chatted with her for a long time.  She felt that I came prepared and so she became more willing to talk to me.
The interviewing was done over three days, for about three hours per day.  It was not easy interviewing He Zhili.  She was not very expressive.  While you may feel that something was extremely important, she might think it was ordinary and just glossed over it with a couple of sentences.  You need to follow up relentlessly.

Q: At the time, you also interviewed Sun Meiying.  Did you want to interview her from the very start?
A: I learned about her from He Zhili.  She kept referring to "instructor Sun."  Sun Meiying is not formally the coach of He Zhili, but she provided a lot of instructions.
Sun Meiying was the vice chairperson of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, and she was the first ever national table tennis championship.  She was a table tennis veteran.  He Zhili could only narrate her own story, but Sun Meiying could tell me about the entire history and situation of the Chinese table tennis team.

Q: Did the interview with Sun Meiying go smoothly?  Did she have any concerns?
A: I went to Beijing to interview Sun Meiying at her home.  We had a great chat.  She was a very straightforward person and absolutely afraid of nothing.  She has met with Premier Zhou Enlai for more than 40 times.  Zhou Enlai liked table tennis and was familiar with her.  I spoke to her for more than three hours in Beijing.  Later, she came to Shanghai on business and I ended up with a total of three interviews with her.  Sun Meiying had thorough knowledge of the table tennis situation and she spoke very clearly.  She told me about the history of match-fixing, about when it started and who threw which match to whom.  I was very amazed.

Q: Did the players ever think about resisting?
A: The first match-fixing was for Zhuang Zedong.  After Zhuang Zedong won the first world championship, they wanted to make him into a national model who won three championships.  At the time, Li Furong was ranked right behind Zhuang Zedong.  Each time in the finals, Li Furong had to lose to Zhuang.  I have chatted with Zhuang Zedong and he was displeased.  He said, "I can beat Li Furong on skill alone.  When the leaders told Li to throw the match, I was discouraged.  So now people are saying that all my world championships were fixed; Li Furong was also angry: 'I could have beaten Zhuang Zedong but the leaders wanted me to lose.'"

Q: If the predecessors yielded even though they were unhappy, then where did He Zhili find the courage to resist?
A: Mrs. Sun told me that it was her idea for He Zhili not to throw the match.  Before He Zhili departed from Beijing to New Delhi to participate in the 37th World Table Tennis Championships, Sun Meiying anticipated that the table tennis team would make He Zhili throw the match.  She said, "If they want to make you throw the match, you should not object at the time.  You just keep playing.  If you objected, they would not let you play."

Q: When He Zhili refused to throw the match, did she consider the consequences?
A: I asked her.  "It was a good thing that you won.  What if you lost the finals?"  She said that she never thought about it.  If she did, she would have gone crazy.
The Chinese table tennis team always considered match-fixing to be a part of its repertoire, especially in an era such as 1987.  He Zhili had been very brave to resist the team.  She refused to throw away the match to Guan Jianhua and she was facing South Korean's Liang Yingzi in the final.  But the entire staff of coaches walked away and ignored her.
After He Zhili won the championship, the superiors wanted her to write self-criticisms.  Sun Meiying was a People's Congress representative and she wrote to then State Chairman Yang Shangkun and People's Congress chairman Wan Li.  They issued a directive: "We do not punish winners."  With this directive from the national leaders, the national sports committee and the table tennis team did not dare to force He Zhili do self-criticisms.

Q: How come you did not interview the sports committee and the table tennis team?
A: The sports people are fairly restrictive about this sort of thing.  If they found out, my essay might have been stopped.  I published my essay not in a sports magazine.  At the time, the magazine was quite bold in speaking out, so my essay was published without a single word being changed.
I went to the Shanghai sports committee to get information and they accommodated me.  But I could go there to ask for information on He Zhili, because the target would be revealed quickly.
After the essay was published, I tried to interview them.  But my exposť shook them up.  Li Furong cursed me out.  Xu Yinsheng also cursed me out.  So I did not go to interview them.

Q: How did they curse you?  Did you personally hear it?
A: Sun Meiying told me.  They cursed me: "Who is this Ye Yonglie?  What is this matter to him?"

Q: After your report came out, did the table tennis team ever reflect on what they were doing?
A: They would not reflect.  At the 2005 World Table Tennis Championships in Shanghai, a reporter asked then Table Tennis/Badminton Center director Cai Zhenhua about his views on match-fixing.  Cai Zhenhua said, "If necessary, the match outcome should be fixed because the national interests overrides all else."
I feel sorry for the Chinese table tennis team.  Li Furong was forced to throw his matches against Zhuang Zedong.  He was a victim himself.  When he became the leader, he forced other people to throw matches.  Throwing matches is against the Olympic spirit of "openness, fairness and justice."  This is like match rigging.

Q: Did He Zhili leave the national team on account of the match throwing incident?
A: The reason that He Zhili ultimately left was that she was excluded from the Olympic team roster in 1988.  At the time, He Zhili was ranked number one in the world.  In <China Sports News>, Sun Meiying published an essay in which she used scientific data to show that He Zhili was the best player in China based upon her performance over several years.  But the Chinese table tennis team ignored her.  So He Zhili could not hang around the Chinese national team anymore, and she therefore left Beijing.  At the time, He Zhili was only twenty-four years old and at the prime of her form.  She wanted to compete internationally.  Just before she joined the national team, she had gotten to know the Japanese national Hideyuki Koyama and the two came together slowly.  So the road in front of her was to get married and move to Japan.

Q: So she represented Japan in competition in order to win a championship.  That was how she became labeled a "Chinese traitor"?
A: Six years later, at the Asian Games in Hiroshima, He Zhili knocked out Qiao Hong, Chen Jing and Deng Yaping, all three of whom were tops in the world, in a single day.  I joked that she was a small private entrepreneur who defeated the large state corporation.  The Japanese table tennis players are amateurs and they had poor training conditions.  He Zhili trained by playing against her husband.  In China, the conditions are better, with so many people and coaches.  Zhang Xielin made an evaluation afterwards.  He Zhili had not competed internationally for six years and Zhang never even thought that she was a serious contender.  At the time, He Zhili was already thirty years old and seven years older than Deng Yaping.
Zhuang Zedong had to write a self-criticism on account of He Zhili.  Zhuang's wife is Japanese.  One time, Zhuang and his wife went on a family visit in Japan and He Zhili came to visit them.  They even played table tennis for more than an hour.  After He Zhili won the championship at the Asian Games in Hiroshima, someone informed on Zhuang that he had coached He Zhili.  The superiors wanted Zhuang Zedong to write a self-criticism.  Zhuang thought that this was risible, because he said, "Why would a top player like He Zhili need my coaching?"
He Zhili had said, "I want to compete internationally.  If I cannot do it on the Chinese team, I will have to choose another country.  So I married a Japanese and I competed for Japan.  If I had married a Thai, people might not have called me a Chinese traitor."

Q: There are many Chinese table tennis players overseas, but only He Zhili gets cursed.  Many people found it most unacceptable for her to yell "Yes" each time that she won a point in a match.  After she won, she appeared to be very "arrogant."
A: Many people cursed her out over the "Yes" thing.  Whenever she won a point, she yelled "Yes" and tightened her fist.  But this was how she trained in Japan.  In the United States, they might say "Okay."  "Yes" and "okay" are the same thing.  If we say "Okay" each time that we win a point, nobody would think anything.  There is no political meaning in this.
When I asked He Zhili about it, she was taken aback.  She said, "What is this?"  She won seven consecutive national championships in Japan and she did exactly the same thing against the Japanese players.  This is a part of the Japanese linguistic system.  She also told me that after she won the championship, the Japanese reaction was, "You see, the Chinese are better."  She won seven national championships in Japan, but the Japanese felt that she was winning glory for the Chinese.

Q: Why do you think people ostracize He Zhili?
A: It is easy to understand this type of nationalistic sentiment.  If the Japanese had admitted fault like the Germans, it would be over.  But some people want to extend the historical sentiments up to now.

Q: He Zhili has gone through a lot of turmoil, and that is why you were concerned about her.  I heard that she was unable to find a husband during the five years after her divorce.
A: Yes.  She is very idealistic and she wants perfection in everything.  Sometimes, I think that we are probably a good match for each other, but she does not want it.  She is looking for someone who is tall and good-looking, well-educated and high-income earning.  She makes good money and has a five-room apartment in the prime section of Osaka.  In my view, a man needs to have 10 million RMB in assets to match her.  She hopes the other party to be a Shanghai man with a foreign passport.
The man must also take good care of her.  There was a very good person, but he was very busy with his work and traveled a lot.  She thought that he did not have time for her.  There are others who are not strong in personality and decisive, so she did not like them.

Q: Would she mind if the other party has children?
A: Not if the children are under 18 years old.  One man had a seven or eight year old child, and she thought that would not work.  She does not want to become a stepmother.  If the child is more than 18 years old, studying in university and about to become independent, then she does not mind.

Q: Is there anyone that she thinks is suitable?
A: There is one person that she particularly likes, but the other party did not feel right.
Someone from America has met with her several times.  He even went to Osaka to see her.  In the end, she does not want to move to America.  Besides, the other party does not speak Japanese and it was impractical for him to move to Japan.
There was another one who speaks Japanese fluently and went from Japan to America.  But the person was too annoying because he would call six or seven times a day.  One time, she was going through customs to board an airplane and she told him.  He kept calling.  He was too enthusiastic.  So He Zhili shut the mobile telephone off and ignored him.

Q: You should advise her to lower her standards.
A: I have advised her: "Why don't you think about this?  Suppose there is a man who is handsome, he is in a good economic situation, he has a foreign passport, he has a good job, he has a good temper and he takes good care of his family.  Why would he want you?  It is a lot easier to find a younger woman.  Besides, you are so famous that he will just be known as the husband of so-and-so."
I think that she is being so picky because she is making a comparison.  I have a good impression of Hideyuki Koyama for he is a solid person.  I was very surprised by their divorce.  I advised He Zhili to imitate Hillary Clinton, but she was too headstrong and cannot tolerate marital infidelity on the part of Hideyuki Koyama.

Hideyuki Koyama's father owns a ship manufacturing factory.  They have two villas in the prime section of Osaka.  The family is among the local elite and they are very friendly towards China.  They treat He Zhili very well.  She does not have to do household chores, and her mother-in-law even learned Chinese for the sake of He Zhili.  No matter where He Zhili is competing, the father-in-law, the mother-in-law and the husband will accompany her.  Many media said that the family was so poor that they used up all of He Zhili's prize money.  I had to laugh when I read that.
This was a top-class family.  You cannot just find anyone else off the street.  You have to compare against this family, and it is not easy.

Q: Since you had been unsuccessful in finding someone for her, you decided to write an essay to advertise for a marriage partner for her?
A: That was the effect objectively.  After she got divorced from Hideyuki Koyama, she wanted to find a trustworthy Shanghainese.  She asked me to search for five years.  My son and daughter-in-law have also joined the search.  We introduced many people to her.  But she is quite demanding and she turned down several excellent prospects.  So I naturally mentioned that.

Q: Has He Zhili seen this essay?  What was her reaction?
A: She knows about it.  I even sent a couple of copies of the magazine to her father via courier service.  He was very delighted.  He thought the photograph was very pretty.

Q: He Zhili had faded from the public eye for some time already.  So why did you decide to write about her now?
A: This was not a planned effort.  On the evening of the sixth day of the Chinese New Year, an editor with <Xinmin Weekly> called me and wanted me to write something for him because they were short of material during the holidays.  So we were chatting over the telephone and I mentioned that He Zhili will be coming to see me in a few days.  He said, "Oh, that one is good!"  He asked me to submit a 5000-word essay for the next day.  So I accepted the assignment.


Relevant link: Should He Zhili be forgiven for playing for Japan?  Joel Martinsen, Danwei