On Tuesday, the Lunar New Year will usher in the Year of the Pig, and Fan Bingbing is here to wish you a happy new year. The 37-year-old actress took to Instagram and Weibo on Monday to send her well-wishes to her followers—her first post on the platform in nearly a year, and her first since disappearing from the public eye amid accusations of tax evasion last year. “I wish you all a happy new year, safe and healthy!” she wrote in the caption, at least according to Google Translate. “Love you guys.” The caption accompanied two close-up selfies in which a makeup-free Fan stares into the camera—something of a deviation from her usual posts, glossy portraits pulled from red carpets or magazine shoots.
It sort of makes sense that Fan, who's perhaps best known to American audiences for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, would post such a real-feeling set of images after the rumors surrounding her retreat from the public eye last year. Last May, Chinese television presenter Cui Yongyuan accused her of tax evasion, a charge her studio vehemently denied. (Cui may have partly been motivated out of animosity for a director with whom Fan had recently worked, according to the New York Times.) Still, it prompted a probe by tax officials, with which the studio said it would “fully cooperate,” into her alleged crimes.
A month later, she stopped posting on Weibo, the Chinese social media site where she had been a frequent poster, per The Hollywood Reporter; her last known activity on the site was a couple of “liked” posts towards the end of July, while her last public appearance was at a children’s hospital July 1. (Her social media absence was, if anything, more disconcerting to fans than her real-life absence; it was especially notable that certain keywords pertaining to the case appeared to have been censored.)
That’s when fan speculation reached a zenith: Had Fan Bingbing been detained by authorities? A story by The Economic Observer, a financial outlet in China, alleged she and her brother had been forbidden from leaving the country (the post has since been deleted, but the same Hollywood Reporter story reported on it at the time); peer outlets also alleged she had been briefly placed under house arrest, per THR.
But in October of last year, Fan finally resurfaced, releasing a statement on Weibo that was printed in the New York Times; the newspaper also reported that she owed nearly $70 million in back taxes and fees to the government. (The kind of underreporting her earnings that she had been accused of is actually pretty common in the Chinese film industry and beyond, according to reports.)
“I have been through pain and suffering I have never had before,” she wrote, an apology that may have been coerced. “I owe my success to the support from my country and the people. Without the great policies of the [Chinese Communist] Party and the country, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing.”
So her most recent Instagram is not only her first post on the platform since the accusations against her blew up; it’s also her first post related to something other than her alleged tax evasion. (We're still waiting for more updates on her supposedly upcoming thriller with Lupita Nyong'o and Jessica Chastain.) What says “I haven’t disappeared” like a fresh-faced selfie and a happy new year?