Chinese 'X-Men' & 'Iron Man' Star 'Vanishes' Amid Government's Culture Crackdown

Actress Fan Bingbing attends the screening of 'Ash Is The Purest White (Jiang Hu Er Nv)' during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 11, 2018 in Cannes, France.
Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage

An A-list actress Reuters describes as "China’s equivalent of Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence," Bingbing Fan, has "vanished" after dropping off the radar in June.

The mysterious disappearance of the actress, 36, who has appeared in over 50 films, including "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and "Iron Man 3," comes amid the Chinese government's crackdown on pop culture, particularly its exploding movie industry, and reports that Fan was "involved in a probe into tax evasion in the film industry."

Reuters reports that its attempts to learn her whereabouts have come up empty:

Reuters was unable to contact Fan. Calls to her agent went unanswered. When asked about Fan, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry replied: “Do you think this is a question of diplomacy?” The Beijing Public Security Bureau declined to comment.

The context of her "vanishing act" is raising suspicions that the Chinese government is involved, as the communist regime "is tightening the reins on popular culture, looking to stamp out behavior seen as going against the ruling Communist Party’s ideological line and co-opting movie stars, pop bands and online celebrities to endorse socialist values," Reuters notes.

The crackdown, particularly on film stars, comes amid an explosion in the Chinese movie market over the last decade.

"It is written in our new movie promotion law that entertainers need to pursue both professional excellence and moral integrity,” a researcher at one of China's most prestigious journalism and communication schools told Reuters. "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."

Another potential wrinkle is a tax evasion scheme in which Fan was implicated. The South China Morning Post first reported on the allegations in June, shortly after which Fan "vanished." Excerpts from the report below (formatting adjusted):

China’s tax authorities have launched an investigation into allegations that show business celebrities are evading taxes by using a fraudulent dual-contract system. ...

On Sunday, Fan’s studio issued a statement denying she had ever signed separate contracts for a single job. “The studio and Fan Bingbing will fully cooperate with the relevant authorities. We hope the investigation result can be released soon to address the doubts of the public,” a studio executive was quoted as saying on Sina.com. ...

China’s state media have called for an independent inquiry into the dual contract allegations. “There should be an impartial investigation into whether some film and television professionals have signed two contracts for one job to evade tax,” People’s Daily said on its official Weibo account.

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