arlier this week, China’s most famous actress created a stir by making a brief appearance on Weibo during her birthday, marking the first time that she has been seen on the social media network for more than three months.
On Sunday, her 37th birthday, Fan Bingbing was labeled as being “online” on Weibo, along with her fiancé Li Chen. There was also apparently a 10-minute window where a message on her account announced “Today is my birthday” before it was deleted.
This is the first activity on Fan’s Weibo page since June 2nd, one day before the State Administration of Taxation announced that it was opening up an investigation into her tax filings. Fan was last seen in public on July 1st during a visit to a children’s hospital.
Fan’s trouble began this year when a CCTV hostaccused her of signing so-called “yin-yang contracts,”wherein she would receive two separate contracts for the same project, one of which would be reported to authorities, the other would not, thus helping her sidestep millions in taxes.
While the host later retracted the accusation and Fan denied any wrongdoing, her subsequent silence has resonated far louder, igniting rampant speculation about what has become of one of China’s most recognizable people. Over the past few months, rumors have circulated that Fan has been arrested, that she has been banned from leaving China, that she has been banned from acting for three years, that her production company’s offices have been emptied, and even that she has sought asylum in the United States.
Interest in her mysterious disappearance piqued earlier this month with the release of a study from Beijing Normal University which attempted to assign a “social responsibility rating” for each Chinese film and television star. Fan scored a zero out of 100. And with a report in the state-runSecurities Dailywhich claimed that Fan had been “placed under control and will accept the legal decision.” The report was deleted hours after it was published.
Fan Bingbing has been China’s highest-paid celebrity for the past four years, according to Forbes, taking in 300 million yuan ($46.8 million) last year. The 36-year-old actress’ first breakout film role came inCell Phoneback in 2003.
It is her contract for the sequel,Cell Phone 2, that got Fan into the mess that she now finds herself in. The film was directed by Feng Xiaogang, who has similarly denied the use of “yin-yang contracts.” However, Chinese film watchers noticed a curious and possibly significant change of late.
When director Jia Zhangke’s latest film Ash is the Purest White was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last week, it was six minutes shorter than the version that played at Cannes in May. The missing scenes are said to have been cut specifically to remove Feng’s cameo appearance from the movie.