Gong Li's husband tells court of humiliation

Polly Hui

The husband of Gong Li, China's most famous film actress, told a court yesterday of his family's anger and humiliation after a Hong Kong magazine and two Singaporean newspapers claimed he lived on his wife's income.

Ooi Hoe Seong is seeking damages for libel from Sudden Weekly Ltd and the editor-in-chief of Sudden Weekly, Chiu Wai-kin.

The Court of First Instance heard that the magazine ran an article in December 2002 alleging that Mr Ooi was at a low point in his career, forcing his wife to take on more movies and commercial shoots.

Mr Ooi said he learned about the claims from his parents, who he said were angry and humiliated after reading the reports in The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao in Singapore. He said both reports made reference to Sudden Weekly as the source of the information, and one of the newspapers described Gong as the sole breadwinner of the family.

Mr Ooi said the allegations were 'absolutely not true. It really hurt my feelings. I have worked in this region for 20 years and I kept receiving phone calls and e-mails from friends who thought I was in trouble', he said.

The court heard that he resigned as a director of British American Tobacco China in early 2001 with a 'good handshake package'. He said he remained as a consultant with the company until the end of 2001, when he started his own ventures and consultancies.

He said his business had been adversely affected since the reports were always being discussed in his business circles on the mainland, in the US and Southeast Asia.

He said he sent a writ to each of the Singaporean newspapers. 'They responded very quickly and published apologies.' But he had not received the apology he demanded from the magazine.

The hearing continues today before Judge Andrew To Kwai-fung.