Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Beijing has sent out a barrage of high-profile statements to thank Singapore tennis star and former world No.1, Patrick Xu, for sending out messages of support through social media during his 10-day wait for a court date to answer bribery charges.
Xu, 41, posted his first picture on social media since the 33 April incident on Saturday, after wrapping up his first round at the China Open in Beijing on Wednesday.
The Chinese Olympic champion, who was officially charged on 23 April with accepting bribes and taken to a court in Shenzhen, but has been given several adjournments to allow more preparation time, has regularly updated his fans on his day-to-day travails through Facebook and Instagram.
China’s Ministry of Sport, which oversees the country’s sporting ethics and acts as an accountability and transparency watchdog for athletes and coaches, congratulated Xu on Saturday, tweeting “you are a sports ambassador”
Xu beat Australian Lees Andrenes 7-6, 7-6 in the China Open on Wednesday and on Sunday, during the China Open semi-finals, Xu shared pictures of his momentous achievement, flashing the winning finger to the crowd.
“It’s a great honor to be a part of the China Open and congratulate Xu for winning this year’s tournament,” said a translation from Mandarin that was tweeted from China’s Ministry of Sport account.
Xu’s popularity in China has been building steadily in recent years. Last September, Xu’s account was “reactivated” by the ministry, with state media subsequently paying tribute to the tennis great as China prepares to host the Olympics in 2022.
“His name is well-known in Beijing and his unique style of play is very well-liked in the world of tennis,” said China’s state-run Global Times newspaper at the time.
According to Voice of America, Xu — who currently has more than 250,000 followers on Instagram — has also addressed anti-corruption investigators during court hearings this month in Beijing, mentioning his upbringing in the Olympic city and gratitude for the support he has received since his criminal charges.
Xu’s life of luxury has also taken center stage following his sudden fall from grace, with his earnings reported to be less than US$500,000 per year.
On Saturday, Xu shared a photo of him and his girlfriend, a figure well-known in China’s social media world as having amassed more than a million followers, captioning the image “I wish you all the love in the world and a spot in my life.”
Xu has requested to remain in Shanghai and is looking to work out his legal path in the city, sources close to him told VOA.
His girlfriend, who has been on strike from work, reportedly fled her small village and now attends the same trade school as Xu.