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Fan Bingbing, China’s highest-paid actress, has “disappeared” from her various social media platforms as a tax evasion probe continues to engulf her.
Fan has been a fairly active presence on microblogging service Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, where she boasts 62 million followers, but the X-Men: Days of Future Past star has failed to post since June 2, and her last activity was tracked to July 23 when she ‘liked’ several posts.
Of further concern to Fan’s legion of fans is that some keywords related to her have been censored on Weibo as the controversy continues and local media reports that she has not been seen in public since July 1, when she visited a children’s hospital in Shanghai.
Fan’s extremely low profile has been linked to a high-profile tax evasion probe that the government initiated against her in early June. The controversy started when a famed CCTV host Cui Yongyuan accused Fan of dodging taxes by signing what is known locally as dual “yin-yang” contracts, which is an official contract for a lower amount submitted to tax authorities and another of secret contract for many times more that evades China’s inland revenue.
The allegations against Fan led to an order from the State Administration of Taxation to investigate such contracting tricks in the film industry. On July 28, the Chinese newspaper Economic Observer reported in its online edition that the Jiangsu province police department had started an investigation on Fan’s “dual contracts” case allegedly with the help of a source at the studio Huayi Bros. The report also alleged that Fan and her brother have been officially forbidden to leave the country due to the investigation.
The Economic Observer report was later deleted, leaving only a Google cached page online. Subsequently, media in Taiwan and Hong Kong, including the China Times and Business Weekly, ran stories on the rumors of Fan’s arrest, along with her manager, personal assistant and the accountant of her production company, Fan Bingbing Workshop.
Media reports said she had been released after two days but under house arrest, but her manager continued to be detained for destroying evidence. The Taiwan Apple Daily also reported, citing “talk within the Chinese film industry,” that all her scenes as a kindergarten teacher in the upcoming Chinese film Unbreakable Spirit, co-starring Bruce Willis and scheduled for theatrical release in China on Aug. 17, had been cut for fear of the film becoming mired in the tax evasion controversy.
The bombshell allegations against Fan have shaken the Chinese film industry. Investors in Shenzhen-listed Huayi Bros., which has a long collaboration with Fan and is the producer of her upcoming Feng Xiaogang film Cell Phone 2, have pressed the company for a response to the allegations in the Economic Observer story.
The studio’s representative replied on July 30 that no financial officer of the studio had participated in an investigation. Despite the denials, Huayi Bros. stock fell by 7 percent the following day. The studio’s shares had previously plunged 10 percent to a five-year low in early June after the tax evasion allegations first surfaced.
A star across Asia, Fan has dozens of commercial deals with various brands and those companies have also come under the spotlight. Thai duty-free retailer King Power International Group released a statement on July 31, stating that the company hasn’t severed its ties with Fan, one of its brand ambassadors, despite speculation to the contrary.
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