BEIJING : Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi has openly denounced allegations that she had an affair with a married businessman.

Rumours are swirling that this was the reason a group of hooded men splashed black ink over a billboard with her image on December 23.

Her lawyer has called it a “vicious” rumour and vowed to take legal action against the media responsible unless they voluntarily retract the story.

On the night of the incident, Zhang was spotted at the lobby of the Park Hyatt Beijing where swarms of paparazzi had gathered to cover Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung and German architect boyfriend Ole Scheeren’s rumoured engagement party.

While Cheung and Scheeren were no-shows, the paparazzi saw a group of men barge into the lobby looking for Zhang, making a scene and claiming that she had cheated people of their money and stole somebody’s husband.

Later that night, a group of hooded men went to a store selling timepieces near the hotel and splashed ink on a giant window advertisement featuring Zhang.

On Wednesday, a prominent Beijing socialite named Zhao Xinyu sparked a new round of rumours about Zhang.

Zhao claimed she had known Zhang for about two years and told entertainment magazine Wan Quan Yu Le that the 30-year-old actress had a fling with a married businessman whom she had introduced to her, all while Zhang was still seeing engaged to multi-millionaire Vivi Nevo.

Zhao claimed that the businessman lavished Zhang with expensive gifts ranging from diamond earrings and necklaces to an Audi luxury car during their time together. She also said the businessman’s wife eventually found out about their relationship.

Zhang thought it was Zhao who told on her and ended their friendship.

Zhao said she was uncertain if the ink splashing incident was related to the fallout from Zhang’s affair.

Zhao also claims that Zhang and Nevo called it quits because they held very different views on marriage.

Zhang’s lawyer admitted that Zhang and Zhao were once friends but said Zhao’s statements were a “personal attack”.

According Zhang’s manager, the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” actress is now in Shenyang, China, shooting the Wong Kar Wai movie “The Great Master”. Zhang’s next film, “Snow flower and the Secret Fan”, will begin shooting at the end of this month.