Chinese Star Fan Bingbing Calls Off Engagement After Tax Scandal

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Fan Bingbing

The actress shared the news of her split from actor Li Chen in a social media post, writing, "In one's lifetime, there are many goodbyes...."

Fan Bingbing, China's highest-paid actress who mysteriously went missing last year amid a tax scandal, has split from her fiance, actor Li Chen.

Fan announced her breakup with Li late Thursday in a short message posted to her official page on Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like service.

"In one's lifetime, there are many goodbyes," she said. "Thank you for everything you have given me — the support and love — along the way. Thank you for your care and love in the future."

She added, "We will not be an 'us' anymore, but we are still us."

"Fan Bingbing and Li Chen break up" has been the leading trending item on Weibo since Fan went public with the split.

Fan and Li met while working together on the hit Chinese period drama The Empress of China, which aired in 2014. They became engaged in September 2017, after Li, 40, proposed to Fan at her birthday party.

Fan, 37, has been one of China's most recognizable stars for over a decade, and she became familiar to international moviegoers thanks to a role as Blink in the X-Men franchise. As much a fashion icon as an actress, she also was the go-to face for luxury endorsements in China, which helped propel her to the very top of China's list of highest-paid celebrities.

The past year has been epically challenging for the actress though. She made headlines around the world in mid-2018 thanks to a very public tax evasion scandal, which resulted in a months-long disappearance from public view. It later emerged that she had been detained and interrogated by Chinese authorities at a remote location. Fan eventually emerged in October to issue a groveling — seemingly coerced — apology, while also agreeing to pay fines and back taxes allegedly totaling around $100 million.

Fan has seen most of her Chinese film projects put on hold in the wake of her tax problems. It now appears likely that her first attempt at a comeback will come courtesy of Hollywood. In the months prior to her scandal, Fan signed on to star opposite Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Lupita Nyong'o and Penélope Cruz in the spy thriller 355, produced by FilmNation and distributed in the U.S. by Universal. Following her disappearance and public humbling, her role — and the project overall — was thought to be in jeopardy, especially once Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media stepped back from a $20 million deal for the Middle Kingdom distribution rights to the title.

During Cannes, however, Chinese film finance company Golden Title stepped in to replace Huayi Brothers on 355. The film is scheduled to begin shooting in Paris in early July. 

Fan's former fiance, Li, has suffered some career turbulence of his own in recent months. Best known for his appearance in Feng Xiaogang's 2010 blockbuster Aftershock and several popular TV series (Beijing Love Story and The Good Fellas), he was next set to star in Huayi Brothers' war epic The Eight Hundred, which was tipped to become one China's biggest hits of the summer. The film's release plans were abruptly scrapped last week under suspected censorship pressure from Beijing.

Li also made his directorial debut in 2017 with the military action film Sky Hunter, which co-starred Fan but disappointed both critically and commercially, earning about $47 million from a production budget of over $30 million.