The Chinese megastar Fan Bingbing has appeared in public for the first time in almost a year, after a mysterious disappearance from the public eye believed to be linked to charges of tax evasion.
Fan, who is one of China’s highest-profile actors, appeared at a Beijing gala on Monday night in honour of iQiyi, a popular video-streaming platform.
This is the first sighting of the 37-year-old actor since July 2018, when she visited a children’s hospital. She stopped posting on all social media accounts around the same time.
Fan, who has had a career spanning two decades and is best known in the west for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, posted a picture of herself on the red carpet of the iQiyi event on Instagram. It is Fan’s second Instagram post since 23 May 2018, after a post in February in honour of Chinese New Year.
Fan’s disappearance from social media and public appearances, perplexed the world last year, sparking rumours she had fled China, was in prison or was under house arrest amid rumours of possible wrongdoing.
Fan’s reappearance was met with mixed reactions. Her post about the event on Instagram received more than 170,000 likes, with people commenting that they were pleased to see her again. “She is back!” wrote one follower.
However, SupChina reports that users of Chinese social media network Weibo reacted in an “overwhelmingly negative” way to the news, with comments including: “How dare she come back?”, “So we just pretend nothing happened?” and “These scandalous celebrities should be forever discarded by the audience!”
In October, Fan was fined for tax evasion and she and her related companies were ordered to pay about 883m yuan ($129m) in fines and unpaid taxes after authorities found she failed to pay about 255m yuan in dues, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Fan apologised on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, saying: “I sincerely apologise to everyone. As a public person I should be in compliance with the law and be an example for society and the industry. In the face of economic benefits, I should not lose my restraint and forsake administrative procedures that lead to violations of the law.
“Without the [Communist] party and the state’s good policies, without the love from the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing,” she wrote.
In September, concerns about Fan intensified when she scored zero out of 100 in the social responsibility category in the 2017-18 China Film and Television Star Social Responsibility Report, compiled by Beijing Normal University and the state-affiliated Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Corporate Social Responsibility Research Institute.
The study was believed to be an indication of the lack of favour Fan was held in by the administration and came amid a wider push by China’s Communist leaders to crack down on the entertainment industry and curb what it sees as “promoting money worship”, “distorting social values” and “misleading young people to blindly chase celebrities”.