China’s biggest star, Zhang Ziyi, is demanding an apology from the Apple Daily after it published claims she had sex with now purged Communist chief Bo Xilai for $1 million a session, as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Communist chief expands into the showbiz community.
Zhang ignored the allegations when she appeared at the 10th Chinese Film Media Awards last Wednesday. However, she subsequently called the claims “completely untrue” and “extremely ridiculous.”
Without offering a single source, the paper parroted allegations from U.S.-based news website Boxun.com saying Zhang slept with Bo at least 10 times between 2007 and 2011 and negotiated similar deals with other powerful men, including Bo’s friend Xu Ming, a billionaire tycoon being probed for alleged corruption.
“We read this outrageous report in the Apple Daily. It sent stone-cold chills down our spines and has left us with a feeling of deep sadness,” her publicist said in a statement.
“Friends have advised us to release a short statement and not take this seriously. The more you argue, the more you will stir things up. It would be better to step aside until people lose interest and the lies disappear. The innocent will always be innocent.”
The case highlights the relatively low social standing of female actors in China. While the film biz has made great strides in recent years, the social status of actors, especially women, remains low.
There is a widely held misconception that the casting couch is the only way to get ahead in the biz in China.
Bo, who was party chief in the giant city of Chongqing and whose populist policies won him many supporters, was purged after his wife Gu Kailai became a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood last year.
The blogosphere has been buzzing with speculation, much of it on the Weibo microblogs, China’s version of the banned Twitter network, with around 300 million users.
However, reporting in the official media has been confined to occasional and thin official stories released by the Xinhua news agency.
There are strict media controls and any of the official media who break those rules could lose their jobs, their license or even their freedom.
As one media executive put it, “We don’t mention Chongqing. I don’t eat Chongqing hotpot. I won’t even date Chongqing girls.”
The speculation took on fresh impetus at Cannes this year, where Zhang was not present to promote her latest film, the unfortunately titled “Dangerous Liaisons.”
There were reports that she was not allowed to travel because she was part of the Bo investigation.
The fall of Bo, once hotly tipped for a top political spot, has electrified China, particularly as it comes in a year when the world’s second biggest economy preps for a change of leadership in the fall.
Xi Jinping, the senior official who oversaw the loosening of quotas for foreign movies allowed into China, will take over as head of the Communist Party and president.