Actress Zhang Ziyi has reached an undisclosed settlement with a U.S.-based dissident news website that she sued for libel after it published reports that she was paid to have sex with Chinese government officials.
Boxun News retracted its “negative and untrue” reports that began in May 2012 in an apology displayed on its English-language site on Wednesday.
“These false reports about Zhang Ziyi should never have been published. As a result, Boxun News now renders its unreserved apology to Zhang Ziyi, has removed the entire series of articles about Zhang Ziyi from the Boxun News website, and issues this formal retraction,” said Boxun, whose reports regularly allege human rights violations and political scandals and which is blocked in China.
Zhang brought the lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against China Free Press, Inc. – a North Carolina non-profit corporation devoted to promoting free speech and democracy in China – doing business as Boxun News, and Weican Null Meng, a U.S. citizen and founder of China Free Press. Zhang claimed damage to her reputation and business interests, according to court documents.
Zhang complained that Boxun News had repeatedly published untrue reports that she was a prostitute who earned more than $100 million by having sexual relations with Chinese government officials and others, according to court documents. Those articles were then republished by other media outlets around the world.
Zhang also disputed Boxun’s allegation that she was working on behalf of the Chinese government to damage the website’s reputation.
Boxun’s reports caused a stir in China because one of the officials they alleged she has slept with was Bo Xilai, a former prominent politician imprisoned for corruption and abuse of power, whose downfall was well under way at the time.
The 34-year-old actress said Boxun had never contacted her before publication to confirm its report or obtain comment. Court documents said she had suffered approximately $250,000 in specific damages, in addition to general damages for injury to her reputation, and that she also sought punitive damages.