Fan Bingbing, China’s highest-paid actress most famous in the U.S. for her role as Blink in the X-Men franchise, has gone missing, per The Hollywood Reporter. The actress, who is set to star alongside Jessica Chastain and Lupita Nyong’o in the upcoming thriller 355, has been unable to be located and has wiped her social media. Fan’s disappearance has been shrouded in mystery, with fans speculating that she’s been taken under the custody of the Chinese government, or that she’s fled to L.A. seeking asylum. Here’s what we know about the case so far.
How did we get here?
Amid the steady growth of the film industry in China, its government has repeatedly cracked down on top actors, aiming to temper high salaries and lavish lifestyles that supposedly corrupt the country’s youth. One of the ways in which film regulators do this is by imposing heavy taxes on high earners.
In July, a TV host leaked documents revealing that a major celebrity had allegedly dodged taxes, and the internet instantly gathered evidence to suggest it was Fan — China’s highest-paid actress. The report detailed a scheme involving “yin-yang contracting,” a commonplace but very illegal practice in which production companies give actors two pay contracts: In addition to their true (hefty) paycheck, they’re given a smaller one to submit to tax authorities. According to the leaked docs, Fan tried to claim $1.56 million, or 10 million in Chinese yuan, for four days of work on an upcoming Chinese film, when she was actually paid an additional $7.8 million — RMB 50 million.
Is it true?
Fan’s representatives have adamantly denied the allegations, hiring a Beijing law firm to investigate, though the Chinese government is reportedly launching its own series of investigations. Her sudden and ongoing disappearance from social media spurred reports in Hong Kong tabloids that the government had issued her with a three-year ban from acting. Her name has also reportedly been wiped from promos for her upcoming war film, Unbreakable Spirit, with Bruce Willis and Adrien Brody.
Ever since the scandal broke, authorities have increasingly cracked down on the issue, prompting production companies to sign a joint pledge to abide by the laws. “Imagine if Trump cut the pay of Beyonce, Kobe Bryant, and Tom Cruise,” one film executive wrote in a private post to followers on WeChat, China’s top messaging app. “Soon there would be a lot less cultural output from Hollywood and fewer revenue for the government to tax.”
Meanwhile, Fan Bingbing is nowhere to be found.
Where might she be?
On August 31, Apple Daily, a notoriously suspect Hong Kong tabloid, reported that the actress was in a Los Angeles immigration office, writing that she had taken the advice of Jackie Chan to seek asylum in the U.S. Fan’s reps say those reports are “nonsense.”
Last week, a state-run Chinese publication called Securities Daily reported that Fan has been placed “under control” by the government, and that she would “accept the legal decision.” The story quickly went viral, before it was removed hours later with no explanation.
The story was further complicated last Sunday, when the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences published a report ranking the social responsibility of 100 of China’s biggest stars. Fan was dead last, earning a score of zero percent. The piece is undoubtedly a work of political propaganda, but it has been picked up by several of China’s state-owned news outlets, prompting further headaches for the actress’ PR team.
Fan’s team has not responded to requests for comment, but this post will be updated as more information becomes available.