Fan Bing­bing, China’s big­gest celebrity, is hit with $130 mil­lion fine

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

CHI­NESE au­thor­i­ties an­nounced stag­ger­ing fines Wed­nes­day for the coun­try’s most high-pro­file celebrity, Fan Bing­bing, in a case that high­lighted both the ex­tent of malfea­sance in Chi­nese show busi­ness and the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to bring the boom­ing in­dus­try to heel.

Tax au­thor­i­ties in east­ern China or­dered Fan to pay the equiv­a­lent of $60 mil­lion in back taxes and $70 mil­lion in fines af­ter find­ing she had un­der-re­ported her earn­ings for years, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

Fan, who had con­spic­u­ously dropped out of pub­lic view in re­cent months, reap­peared on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia to ex­press shame and re­morse for her crimes - but also thanks to­ward the Com­mu­nist Party for her celebrity sta­tus.

“Re­cently, I have ex­pe­ri­enced un­prece­dented pain and agony, and I have un­der­gone pro­found thought and re­flec­tion,” she wrote. “I feel ashamed and guilty about what I have done, and I sin­cerely apol­o­gise to you all!” In a long let­ter to her 63 mil­lion fol­low­ers on the so­cial me­dia site Weibo, Fan, who turned 37 last month, said she owed her grat­i­tude to the gov­ern­ment for its role in prop­ping up the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

“With­out the great poli­cies of the Com­mu­nist Party and the state, with­out the peo­ple’s love and care, there would be no Fan Bing­bing,” she wrote, adding that she “fully ac­cepted” the in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ find­ings.

Fan’s down­fall had been ex­pected for months but still came as a shock for an en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try that has boomed on the back of China’s grow­ing mid­dle class.

Known for her roles in do­mes­tic block­busters and Hol­ly­wood’s “Xmen” fran­chise, Fan was a lead­ing draw at the Chi­nese box of­fice, which re­port­edly sold nearly $8 bil­lion in tick­ets last year, a fig­ure that, if true, would ap­proach North Amer­ica’s. A ubiq­ui­tous face in cam­paigns for brands like Mercedes-benz and Louis Vuit­ton, Fan was unapolo­getic about work­ing hard and sup­port­ing her­self, fa­mously telling an in­ter­viewer in 2015 that she never thought to marry rich - she was rich.

Fan’s trou­bles be­gan in May af­ter a state tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity leaked on so­cial me­dia two ver­sions of her con­tracts for the film “Air Strike,” star­ring Bruce Willis. The leaks al­leged to show Fan’s “yin-yang con­tracts,” in which one doc­u­ment vastly un­der­stated her pay as $1.7 mil­lion for tax ac­count­ing pur­poses while an­other stated true com­pen­sa­tion that was sev­eral times higher.

The leaks sparked a so­cial me­dia frenzy and a broader dis­cus­sion about how Chi­nese celebri­ties and wealthy elite rou­tinely bend the rules - just as in other coun­tries. But tax eva­sion and fi­nan­cial mis­re­port­ing are widely ac­cepted as al­most com­mon­place in China de­spite peren­nial vows by the gov­ern­ment to crack down.

Af­ter Fan van­ished from pub­lic view in July, the con­spic­u­ous na­ture of her dis­ap­pear­ance only fu­eled wild ru­mors - many of which were soon cen­sored - about her pos­si­ble in­volve­ment in high-level po­lit­i­cal in­trigue.

The South China Morn­ing Post re­ported this week that Fan was held for weeks un­der “res­i­den­tial sur­veil­lance at a des­ig­nated lo­ca­tion,” a mech­a­nism in Chi­nese law that al­lows po­lice to se­quester and in­ter­ro­gate sus­pects at se­cret lo­ca­tions, of­ten in re­la­tion to sen­si­tive na­tional se­cu­rity or of­fi­cial cor­rup­tion cases.

Tax au­thor­i­ties said this week they would not for­mally pur­sue Fan for “crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity” and ef­fec­tive close her case if she paid her dues be­fore an undis­closed dead­line. Fan has pledged to do so.

Her agent has also been de­tained for ob­struct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by de­stroy­ing doc­u­ments, Xin­hua re­ported.

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