Chinese actress Fan Bingbing has been missing for over two months. But, fans and tabloids have been speculating that she could be in the custody of the Chinese government or hiding out and seeking asylum in the United States, per The Hollywood Reporter.
Fan, 36, China's most recognisable actress, hasn't been seen in public since July, going dark on social media roughly at the same time. Reporters from state-controlled media accused the actress of tax evasion over the summer, leaking the actress' personal documents. A recent report from a government-backed agency has served to further smear Fan's reputation.
As China's highest-paid actress, Fan has made recent headway into Hollywood, where she has landed movie deals with tinseltown's most venerated actors. This just makes her radio silence all the weirder — she should be busy promoting her work. Los Angeles-based representation for Fan did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.
Ahead, we break down the numerous conflicting reports since news of Fan's disappearance came to light.
Is Fan a popular pop culture figure in China? Have I seen her in anything?
Popular is an understatement. Fan is the highest paid actress in China, with films and endorsements from luxury brands like DeBeers, Montblanc, and LouisVuitton. The actress' image is ubiquitous in China and the fashion world beyond.
In addition to dozens of Chinese-language films, the actress also starred as Blink in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past. This past May, the actress was seen in Cannes where her involvement in the upcoming spy-thriller 355 was announced. The film, produced by Jessica Chastain's Freckle Films, also stars Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong'o, and Marion Cotillard. The film is in pre-production. Refinery29 has reached out to reps for Chastain, Nyong'o, Cruz, Cotillard, and Freckle Films and will update this post should we hear back.
Bring me up to date, when was she seen last?
According to THR, Fan hasn't been seen in public since July 1, and her social media went dark July 23.
Has her family commented on the disappearance?
Fan got engaged to Chinese actor Li Chen, 39, on her birthday September 2017. This past August, the actor was seen sans a ring he wore to mark his relationship with Fan. He has not commented on his fiancée's disappearance or whereabouts. Some Chinese news reports speculate Fan might be with Chen in the United States, where he is currently shooting.
The actress' brother, singer Fan Chengcheng, broke down into sobs at a promotional stop for his boy band Nine Percent where he also revealed he wouldn't be attending a series of events, including one in Thailand. Fans speculated he was emotional because of his sister's disappearance, and that perhaps he was not allowed out of the country because of his sister.
“Hopefully that when we meet next time, I’ll become more mature," he said to his fans, adding, "I’ll be able to protect you guys, and have the power to protect my family.”
What was Fan accused of?
The New York Times reports disgruntled television anchor Cui Yongyuan leaked two contracts for one of Fan's upcoming movies, Cell Phone 2, in May of this year. The actress was accused of "yin-yang contracting," a common and illegal practice in which production companies provided two contracts to actors, with the one showing a lesser salary then submitted for tax purposes. The documents Yongyuan released — which Fan later said were fake — revealed the actress' salary to be $1.56 million, to be reported for tax purposes, while her actual salary was closer to $10 million.
Fan accused Cui of slander, but the move motivated the State Administration of Taxation to get involved, announcing an inquiry into the Chinese entertainment industry to "investigate and verify online allegations that TV and film actors evaded taxes by signing two contracts." Previously, the government had made a motion to prevent movie stars from making too much money. In 2017, the China Alliance of Radio Film and Television suggested via its official guidelines that stars should only be allowed to make 70% of the sum total of the cast's salaries.
How was the government involved?
THR reports Chinese state media publication, Securities Daily, reported the actress was "placed under control" by Chinese authorities and will "accept the legal decision." Hours later, the report was retracted without any explanation or correction.
According to the Washington Post, a September 11 report from Beijing university and a government think tank gave Fan a rating of 0 — out of 100 — in their annual “China Film and Television Star Social Responsibility Report.” The report ranks Chinese celebrities by their "professional work, charitable actions and personal integrity," the BBC reports.
Where is Fan now?
Confirmed information is difficult to find, but an August 31 tabloid report from Hong Kong tabloid The Apple Daily, claims the actress was seen in a Los Angeles immigration office , adding to rumours that she is seeking asylum in the U.S.
Fans are also speculating the actress could be in the custody of the Chinese government, but her location remains a mystery.
Is Fan the only star targeted?
No. During a September 16 Beijing screening of filmmaker Zhangke Jia's film, Ash Is Purest White, a scene featuring actor and director Xiaogang Feng was glaringly absent, THR reports. The film, which had premiered in Cannes just months earlier, had been edited amid reports the government was targeting Feng for possible tax evasion. The outlet also reports Feng, like Fan, is "missing in action."
Fen directed Fan in the film Cellphone. This year, it was announced that Fen would direct a sequel titled Cell Phone 2.