Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi sues paper over sex claims

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi has sued Hong Kong's leading newspaper the Apple Daily and its sister weekly Next Magazine over reports that she prostituted herself with senior Chinese officials.

The "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star signed the suit presented to the Hong Kong High Court on Monday, saying the reports were "seriously defamatory" and "false".

An article in Apple Daily on May 29 said Zhang "is a prostitute" and had sex with disgraced top official Bo Xilai and his wealthy associate Xu Ming for money on "numerous occasions", the court document said.

The tabloid also alleged the 33-year-old actress had sex with other top officials and "unnamed rich persons", and had accrued a fortune worth 700 million yuan ($110 million) from these illicit liaisons over 10 years.

"The plaintiff has been subjected to public odium, hatred, contempt or ridicule," the suit signed by the actress said, adding it would seek unspecified damages.

"The plaintiff's public image has also been seriously and continuously undermined which has caused and will continue to cause loss and damage to her profession and career."

Apple Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper known for racy celebrity gossip and strong criticism of the Chinese communist authorities, did not reply to requests from AFP for comment on the suit.

The story was removed from the newspaper's website after Zhang threatened to sue last month.

Bo was sacked from his post as boss of Chongqing city in March and then suspended from China's powerful central politburo for "serious discipline violation" -- code for corruption. He has not been seen since.

His wife, Gu Kailai, is in custody under suspicion of ordering the murder of a British businessman.

Zhang also denied Apple Daily's assertion that she was now under investigation by Chinese authorities and was barred from leaving China.

Apple Daily and Next Magazine are both owned by Hong Kong entrepreneur Jimmy Lai's Next Media. The company's share price fell 1.79 percent on Tuesday while the broader Hang Seng index was down 0.64 percent at lunch.

Apple Daily editor-in-chief Cheung Kim-hung and Next Magazine's chief editor Li Chi-ho were also named as defendants in the suit.

A spokesman for the actress, whose other films include "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Rush Hour 2", said in a post on Chinese social media that Zhang "will not tolerate the recent irresponsible media rumours".

"The legal proceedings mean that we have started down the road to maintaining her legal rights and interests. Justice can be expected soon," the spokesman said.

Zhang did not attend the premiere in Cannes last month of her latest film, "Dangerous Liaisons", a Chinese-language version of the timeless French tale of sex and betrayal set in 1930s Shanghai.

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