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- One of China’s most well-known actresses has been missing since July 1.
- Fan Bingbing was last seen visiting a children’s hospital in Beijing. She has also been inactive on social media.
- Her disappearance came after a journalist with state-run TV accused her of tax evasion.
- Earlier this year a state-run newspaper said Fan was “under control,” but that report was quickly deleted.
- China has banned its state media from reporting about her, so we are no closer to knowing what’s happened.
- Many companies she advertised for have since pulled her face from their campaigns.
Fan Bingbing, one of China’s most prominent actresses, went missing exactly three months ago.
Her latest post on microblogging site Weibo was on June 2, although her account was seen liking multiple posts on July 23, the newspaper reported. She previously posted on social media at least once a day.
Fan’s disappearance came shortly after she was accused of signing secret contracts for a movie to avoid paying taxes. She has appeared in dozens of movies, including the 2014 film “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and appeared in ad campaigns for well-known brands like Louis Vuitton and De Beers.
In May, Cui Yongyuan, a former TV host with the state-run China Central Television, suggested that the actress had signed two contracts: One for 10 million yuan ($1.5 million), which was used for her taxes, and another 50 million yuan ($7.3 million), which was kept secret.
These are referred to as “yin-yang contracts” likely named because one contract is public and the other is not. In Mandarin Chinese, yin means dark and yang means light.
Fan’s representatives later released a statement accusing Cui of insinuation and defamation, and Cui later apologized, according to the Straits Times.
But that appeared not to be enough to save her from state scrutiny.
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In late July, the independent Chinese newspaper The Economic Observer reported that police in Jiangsu province were examining Fan’s financial case and that several of Fan’s staff members were also under police investigation.
But shortly after it was published, that report appeared to have been taken offline. Posts speculating on Fan’s whereabouts were also removed from Weibo.
In early September, some two months after Fan’s disappearance, China’s state-run Securities Daily newspaper reported that the actress had been put “under control, and will accept the legal decision.”
That story was also taken offline hours after it was published, but was noted by several news outlets including Taiwan News.
- De Beers Jewellers/YouTube
There have been virtually no news about Fan in China’s state press because in June, authorities issued guidelines to state media telling them not to report on “yin-yang contracts” or tax issues facing people in the entertainment industry.
Rumors of her whereabouts, however, remain rife.
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid also reported that Fan had been questioned by authorities but was not allowed to leave her house.
- Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter
Fan’s associates have also appeared to be punished. Earlier this month, a Chinese director who worked with Fan on the movie for which was accused of signing secret contracts saw his cameos mysteriously deleted from another movie at the Toronto film festival in September.
At the time of her disappearance Fan was also reportedly suing a Chinese billionaire for defamation after he accused her of sleeping with China’s vice president and of pocketing bribes from the arrangement.
Guo Wengui, the billionaire she was suing, regularly posts hourlong rants with unverified claims against Chinese officials. He claimed that Fan disappeared because “somebody wants to shut Fan up,” not because of tax-evasion allegations.
Many companies she advertised for, including De Beers and Australian vitamin brand Swisse, have also suspended her image from their campaigns since her disappearance, the Associated Press reported.
Rod Wye, a former official at the British Embassy in China and an associate fellow at Chatham House, told The Sun last month: “For someone like her to be ‘publicly disappeared’ sends out a message that no matter how high you rise, the Party can cut you down again.”
“You can’t tell who will be singled out next,” he said.