Fan Bingbing is a Chinese actress you might recognize from appearances in the Iron Man and X-Men films. At age 36, she is the Chinese equivalent of someone like Jennifer Lawrence (best known for playing Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movies).
In 2015, Times Magazine named Fan as China’s “most famous actress.” Last year, she topped Forbes’ China celebrity rich list with earnings of more than $43 million.
She has been missing since June, when, according to social media, she traveled to Tibet to visit a children’s hospital.
Fan was reportedly under investigation for tax evasion, but it is possible she has been detained by the government for ‘bad behavior.’
â€¨Fan’s disappearing act comes amid a cultural clean-up in China wherein the Communist government is pressuring actors, musicians, and public figures to endorse socialist values. The crackdown has even extended to video games and bloggers.
Official Chinese media published a report earlier this month ranking Chinese celebrities in order of social responsibility, including moral conduct. Fan came in dead last with zero points.
“It is written in our new movie promotion law that entertainers need to pursue both professional excellence and moral integrity,” explains Si Ruo, a researcher at China’s Tsinghua University. “In the unbridled growth of the industry in the past few years, we might have overlooked the need for positive energy, so the government’s intervention is reasonable.”
A state-run publication reported last week that Fan had been placed “under control, and will accept the legal decision” of authorities. The story was withdrawn hours after it was published.
The explosion of online media has made it even harder for China’s Communist Government to censor the creative arts, and official bodies are now threatening to ban so-called “tainted artists” who engage in inappropriate behaviors such as gambling, prostitution, and drug use.
“Celebrities are seen as a weapon in the Party’s idealogical battle, which is fought across all sectors all the time,” explains Jonathan Sullivan of the University of Nottingham.
In 2011, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained for nearly three months. He was released from an undisclosed location after signing a confession related to tax evasion.
Author’s Note: Celebrities get destroyed by the media all the time in the US. But in China, the government has the power to make you disappear. No fighting it; no appeal to the media; no public trial. And the government can do this to anyone, anytime.