China’s most famous movie star is missing.
Fan Bingbing, 37, has long been a household name in China, topping Forbes’ list of highest-paid celebrities in China for four consecutive years. She recently made the jump to international stardom with a role in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” In May, she landed a role in an upcoming spy film with Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, and Penelope Cruz. Then, in June, the star disappeared without a trace.
In one of her final appearances on camera, Fan talked about her childhood and the power of women in an advertisement for De Beers' diamonds.
“Women today are very powerful,” Fan said in the commercial. “They take control of their work and careers.”
Her last public appearance was on social media, when she posted photos from a visit to a children’s hospital in Tibet to her verified Weibo account, which has almost 63 million followers, in early June.
There’s general agreement that Fan’s disappearance is related to her so-called “yin yang contracts” for her film roles leaked on Chinese that leaked on social media in late May. There are two contracts, according to a state-run tabloid the Global Times: one for tax purposes, and another to avoid taxes. The first (showing Fan was paid $1.5 million for four days’ work) was reported to the government; a second showed she was actually paid $7.5 million. The leaks prompted China’s government to announce a broad inquiry into the entertainment industry’s tax practices. “If violations of tax laws and regulations are found, they will be handled in strict accordance with the law,” the government’s announcement said. But it’s unclear if Fan has even been charged with a crime, and it’s not even certain that officials specifically targeted her in their investigation.
Though there are few facts, rumors seem to come back to two theories: Fan has either been detained (or worse) by the Chinese government, or she’s in hiding. On Sept. 6, a Chinese publication reported that Fan had “been brought under control” and was “about to receive legal judgment.” The article later disappeared. And viewers in China report that TV stories on the actress have begun disappearing from the airwaves.
At the time of the leak, Fan’s team denied the accusations. But since then, a quiet pushback has materialized against the actress. Fan acted as a brand ambassador for several luxury companies, including Australia’s Swisse Wellness — until last week, when a Swisse spokesman said: "We have suspended using her image alongside our brand.
Additionally, Fan’s name has disappeared from marketing materials for a Chinese film starring Bruce Willis called “Unbreakable Spirit.”
Cover image: Fan Bingbing attending the "Ash Is The Purest White" screening held at the Palais des Festivals on May 11, 2018 in Cannes, France as part of the 71th annual Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Lionel Hahn/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)