November 16, 2018

Fan Bingbing, China’s Most Famous Actress, Has Disappeared

Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing—the country’s highest-paid actress and one of its most famous celebrities, with more than 62 million followers on Weibo—has reportedly not been seen in public for more than two months, sparking rumors about her whereabouts and concern that she could be in the custody of the Chinese government, after she was caught up in a tax-evasion scandal. China’s Securities Daily newspaper reported last week in a since-deleted article that Fan was “under control” and “would accept the legal decision,” and alluded to other crimes, but the article never specified those. Best known in the U.S. for playing Blink in the X-Men franchise and appearing in advertisements for brands like Guerlain and De Beers, Fan hasn’t been seen in public since July 1 or been active on social media since late July.

In an attempt to curb what it views as the excesses of the entertainment industry, the Chinese government has recently begun capping payoffs for leading actors at not more than 40 percent of the total production costs. Fan’s sudden disappearance from the public eye comes after she was entangled in a public scandal earlier this year over “yin and yang contracts,” in which stars receive one contract with their actual salary and another contract with a lower wage number to submit to tax authorities. Documents were leaked in July by a “disgruntled TV host,” The Hollywood Reporter said this week, “demonstrating an alleged tax-dodge scheme by an unnamed major star—instantly identified online as Fan.” The actress’s representatives denied she was the one implicated in the documents, which claimed to show a star reported $1.56 million for work on an upcoming Chinese film when he or she was in fact paid $7.8 million.

Adding fuel to the fire: Fan received a 0 out of a possible 100 rating on the recently released China Film and Television Star Social Responsibility Report, a joint survey by a Beijing university and the “state-affiliated” Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Corporate Social Responsibility Research Institute. The report seeks to monitor celebrities as part of the government’s crackdown on “promoting money worship” and “distorting social values.” Fan, a glamorous, highly paid star—and one who has served as a spokesmodel for ultra-luxury brands—could be perceived as out of step with her native country’s socialist principles.

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