China Disappears A-List Actress Fan Bingbing
Fan Bingbing, 36 anni, an A-list Chinese movie star who has appeared in the “X-Men” and “Iron Man” film franchises, has more than 62-M followers online in China and fronted campaigns for Montblanc watches and De Beers diamonds, has disappeared.
The star dropped out of sight in June when reports started to come out that she was involved in a probe into tax evasion in the film industry. That has sparked speculation in China about her fate, including reports the actress has been detained.
Reuters was unable to contact Fan. Calls to her agent went unanswered.
When asked about Fan, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry replied: “Do you think this is a question of diplomacy?” The Beijing Public Security Bureau declined to comment.
The drama is been playing out at a time when Beijing is tightening the reins on popular culture, looking to stamp out behavior seen as going against the ruling Communist Party’s ideological line and co-opting movie stars, pop bands and online celebrities to endorse socialist values.
It is written in China’s new movie promotion law that entertainers need to pursue both professional excellence and moral integrity.
“In the unbridled growth of the industry in the past few years, we might have overlooked the need for positive energy, so the government’s intervention is reasonable,” an official said in a statement.
Fan Bingbing is the most prominent example.
The Fan is China’s equivalent of Hollywood Star Jennifer Lawrence. She topped Forbes’ China celebrity rich list last year with earnings of $43.78-M.
A Chinese TV anchor in May was widely reported to have posted tax-dodging pay agreements online known as “yin-yang” contracts, 1 setting out the real agreed payment terms and a 2nd with a lower figure for the tax authorities – that appeared to implicate Fan.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Fan’s studio denied she had ever signed separate contracts for a single job. China’s tax bureau said in June it was launching a tax evasion investigation into the film and television industry.
The culture clean-up in China is more widespread, snaring video games, online bloggers and rap artists. Critics say it threatens to stifle creativity in some sectors, and is hitting the bottom lines of firms such as tech and gaming giant Tencent (OTCMKT:TCEHY).
State-run media have begun using phrases such as “tainted artists”, with official bodies pledging to ban stars who behave badly, including drug taking, gambling or visiting prostitutes.
An open letter earlier this month from members of the Beijing Trade Association for Performances said the body would “purify” the city’s entertainment and performance sector and guide artists towards “core socialist values”.
“Celebrities are seen as a weapon in the Party’s ideological battle, which is fought across all sectors all the time,” said the Director of China Programs at the University of Nottingham.
China has long sought to control the creative arts, from censoring movies to literature. However, a boom in online media has prompted a new push to cleanse the arts world, as President Xi Jinping looks to tighten his grip over a huge and diverse cultural scene popular with China’s youth.
That drive has created a dragnet that has swept over the creative arts, leaving few unaffected.
Fan came in last place with Zero points.
Claire Dong, partner and attorney at Beijing-based Tiantai law firm, said there has been a surge of consulting requests since Fan got into hot water.
New policies are swiftly eroding the favorable tax treatment that actors and artists once enjoyed.
“This is what the government needed to do,” Ms. Dong said. “The government needed to guide the actors to be more focused on acting, not money making.” ($1 = 6.8528 RMB Yuan)
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