In August, increasingly frantic concerns began to surface that Fan Bingbing, widely considered China’s most famous actress, had suddenly gone missing. Those behind the theory cited a number of reasons: that she hadn’t been seen in public since July 1; hadn’t posted on Instagram since May; had abandoned the 62 million followers she then had on her most popular platform, Weibo; and hadn’t been in the news since a prominent Chinese TV personality publicly accused her of tax evasion in May—a claim so explosive that it sent the country’s film industry into a crisis.
Four months later, on Wednesday, the world finally got an update on Fan’s status: the 37-year-old actress, who’s gained an international presence over the past few years thanks to films like X-Men: Days of Future Past and the upcoming star-studded spy thriller 355, released a long-awaited statement, which the New York Times published along with an article announcing that China has accused her of evading millions of dollars in taxes. The government has fined Fan what amounts to nearly $70 million in unpaid taxes and penalties.
The harsh welcome home comes after an investigation that concluded that Fan and employees of her production company had been underreporting her income—an apparently common practice in China, even outside of the film industry, involving the use of “yin and yang” contracts, or submitting an official contract with lower figures for taxes and keeping the one with actual earnings secret. Fan’s personal film studio originally refuted the allegation. But after its investigation, the Chinese government now seems to be making an example of Fan, suggesting that those who continue to stick to such a practice will be subject to similarly serious consequences. (It has imposed a December 31 deadline for those in the entertainment industry looking to avoid their own investigations to declare any untaxed income.)
Meanwhile, Fan returned to Weibo for the first time since June 2 to issue her statement—and seemingly admit to the charges. “I have been through pain and suffering I have never had before. I have had deep and profound self-reflection. I feel shamed and guilty for what I have done,” she wrote, along with a promise to pay the fine to avoid a criminal investigation. (The tax authorities in Beijing and Jiangsu, the province where her company is based, have said that as long as she does indeed pay up, she won’t be facing any criminal charges, in part due to her lack of previous offenses.)
Fan Bingbing, Queen of the Red Carpet
The actress stood out at the 63rd Annual Cannes Festival, where she wore a dramatic Laurence Hsu gown covered in illustrations of dragons.
Fan Bingbing looked elegant on the red carpet at the 63rd Annual Cannes Festival in a grey-purple one-shoulder chiffon gown with embellished details.
For the Cannes red carpet the next year, Bingbing donned this purple, strapless Atelier Versace gown while attending the premiere for The Artist.
The actress accessorized her white Elie Saab couture gown paired with the matching feathered shaw, a pewter-colored clutch and crystal jewelry.
Fan Bingbing wore a classic one-shoulder gown to a celebration of the ‘Sortilege de Cartier’ Collection in Rome.
Fan Bingbing attended the ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ premiere at the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival in a floral, mermaid gown.
While attending Louis Vuitton’s Fashion night out in Shanghai, the actress pushed the envelope in a gothic Louis Vuitton ensemble. Smokey eye makeup and a bright red lip were the perfect finishing touches.
The actress hit the red carpet at the 2013 Academy Awards in a fuchsia Marchesa ballgown.
Fan Bingbing made mod look modern at the Louis Vuitton Fall 2013 runway show in a black-and-white checkered dress with black leather gloves.
At the ‘Jenue & Jolie’ Premiere during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival, the actress wore a dusty golden-hue Elie Saab Couture gown that feature a embellished mid-sleeve length bodice, belted waistline and flowing skirt.
The classic beauty wore an off-white, crystal-embellished Ralph & Russo couture dress in 2014.
Fan Binging was fairytale perfection in a gray princess-like Marchesa gown embellished with multi-colored flowers at the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road.
At the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, the star wowed in an off-the-shoulder pink, embroidered Ralph & Russo couture gown that featured a long watteau train and sleeves that draped elegantly behind her.
At the Shanghai Film Festival last summer, Fan Bingbing wore a dramatic burgundy-colored gown with sheer panels by Stephanie Rolland, accessorized by Chopard jewels.
Fan Bingbing looked rocker chic in a red leather Louis Vuitton coat dress at the designer’s Fall 2016 show during Paris Fashion Week.
The Chinese actress dazzled on the red carpet at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival premiere of ‘I Am Not Madame Bovary’ wearing a Elie Saab Haute Couture velvet gown. The long-sleeved dress featured a thigh-high slit on the silk printed-skirt, sequin-embellishments, and a deep plunging neckline.
Fan isn’t alone in facing such a predicament: Her agent, Mou Enguang, has reportedly been taken into custody, and the government also made it clear that it’s investigating some of Fan’s company’s employees for “potentially criminal actions,” including obstructing the tax investigation. (The government initially responded to the situation in June by imposing new limits that put a cap on how much actors can make, in what it said was a response to the industry’s “distorting social values” and “fostering [of] money worship tendencies.”)
The release date of her film with Bruce Willis, Unbreakable Spirit, has already been delayed, and now the authorities’ reports that Fan declared only half of her 20 million yuan—or nearly $3 million—contract have prompted rumors that she won’t make the movie’s final cut. As for her boon of a role in 355, alongside actresses like Marion Cotillard, Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Chastain, and Penélope Cruz, its fate now remains unknown.