Fan Bingbing, one of China’s highest-paid and most popular actresses, has been missing from the public eye since July 1. She has also been silent on her social media profiles since July 23.
News of Bingbing’s disappearance comes amidst an investigation into tax fraud allegedly committed by her. China’s state-backed news media has been heavily critical of Bingbing in the past few months. Last week, the state-run Chinese newspaper Securities Daily wrote that Chinese authorities have put Bingbing “under control” and that she would “accept the legal decision”, The Hollywood Reporter noted. Hours after the story went viral throughout China, it was retracted without explanation.
Bingbing, 36, has acted in the Chinese films Lost in Beijing (2007), Buddha Mountain (2011), Double Xposure (2012) and I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016). Outside China, she is known for her appearances in the French film Stretch (2011), the Korean film My Way (2011), and the Hollywood superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Prior to the publication of a study on Sunday, which alleged that she had “zero” social responsibility, Bingbing had been spotted in an immigration office in Los Angeles, California, sparking off rumours that she had fled the country.
The negative press around Bingbing started to build around June, when a news report about an unnamed Chinese star evading taxes came to the forefront. The star was immediately identified as Bingbing on the internet. According to the report, the star showed earnings of $1.56 million (RMB10 million) for four days’ work on a movie, with the secret pay being an additional $7.8 million (RMB 50 million) seen on a second contract.
The Chinese government became strict about limiting the salaries of movie and television stars. State-run dailies reported that, according to a directive signed by five government regulatory bodies, payments to a film’s cast could not exceed more than 40% of a film’s budget. Additionally, the stars could not pocket more than 70% of the money paid to all cast members.
Bingbing’s representatives have denied the allegations of tax fraud.