Mystery of China’s missing movie star Fan Bingbing deepens
Speculation that actor with 62 million social media followers has been jailed for tax evasion
Where is Fan Bingbing? China’s most famous female actor disappeared more than 100 days ago and there is speculation she has been sent to prison for evading taxes.
The last sighting of Fan was on July 1st when she visited a children’s hospital in Shanghai, and she last “liked” a posting on the Sina Weibo social network, where she has 62.5 million followers, on July 23rd.
In August, the Securities Daily newspaper published a report saying the 36-year-old had been arrested for tax evasion. She had been “placed under control, and will accept the legal judgment”. However, that story has since been taken down from the news site.
Fan has been China’s highest-paid female actor for the past four years according to Forbes magazine, and she makes about four films a year. She rose to fame in the late 1990s with movies including My Fair Princess and Cell Phone.
Fan came last in a state-sanctioned study on the social responsibility of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong celebrities, adding to speculation about her situation.
Her manager and personal assistant could not be reached and there is speculation that they have also been arrested, along with her boyfriend Li Chen.
In May, TV talk show host Cui Yongyuan accused her of using illegal “yin-yang” contracts, where actors sign double contracts, one for a lower fee for a project than they actually earn to avoid taxes.
Fan denied the charges and Cui retracted his accusation, but Chinese tax authorities said in June that they were investigating the finances of dozens of celebrities for tax fraud.
The movie Cell Phone was allegedly based on Cui’s love-life and divorce, and she was working on Cell Phone 2 when she disappeared.
The director of both films, Feng Xiaogang, took to social media to deny that he was next to be investigated for tax evasion.
In August, there were rumours Fan had been banned from acting for three years because of the “yin-yang” contracts.
She is being compared to Liu Xiaoqing, who was once one of China’s richest people but who was jailed in 2002 for 14 months for tax evasion.
Fan’s 18-year-old brother Fan Chengcheng, who is a contestant on the reality TV programme Idol Producer, wept during an appearance for fans in Nanjing last week, saying he was “more sensitive” after things that had happened in his family of late, but he did not directly mention his sister.
China’s film business is booming, with box office receipts of €7.4 billion last year.
Fan was in trouble in 2015 for showing too much skin in the historical drama Empress of China. The whole series had to be edited to remove the offending cleavage.