Chinese superstar actress Fan Bingbing is back in the spotlight for the first time in almost a year, after she abruptly dropped out of sight in the wake of a massive tax evasion scandal.
The 37-year-old dazzled the audience at a corporate gala in Beijing, Monday, as she posed on a red carpet for photographers in a pink and black color-blocked pantsuit, augmented by a designer handbag and diamonds.
Fan disappeared from public view early last July after the scandal came to light. Online opinion appeared mixed about her reappearance, with admirers gushing over her stunning return to the public eye and detractors voicing disdain or even disgust.
Perhaps anticipating such reactions, Fan refrained from posting photos of the event on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, where she has more than 62 million followers. She did share pictures on Instagram, which is blocked in China, prompting more than 170,000 “likes” as of Thursday.
Last October, Chinese authorities fined Fan almost $130 million after ruling that she used so-called “yin-yang contracts” to conceal her real earnings in the movie industry and dodge millions of dollars in taxes.
The actress avoided criminal charges since she was a first-time offender, state media reported. Fan said at the time she fully accepted the decision, and apologized profusely to the public, party and government.
“As a public figure, I should have abided by laws and regulations, and been a role model in the industry and society,” she said in a letter posted on social media last October. “I shouldn’t have lost self-restraint or become lax in managing my companies, which led to the violation of laws in the name of economic interests.”
“Without the favorable polices of the Communist Party and state, without the love of the people, there would have been no Fan Bingbing,” she added.
Fan’s case was seen as a warning from President Xi Jinping to other celebrities not to cheat on tax. The entertainment industry had previously largely been spared from Xi’s anti-corruption crackdown.
Fan’s high-profile reappearance Monday follows reports that she would soon return to the big screen alongside Hollywood stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.
The all-female spy thriller titled “355” is set to begin shooting later this year, reported Variety earlier this month, after Fan’s scandal last year temporarily cast doubt over the future of the film.