China’s ‘livestreaming queen’ fined $204M for tax evasion
Beijing — A Chinese influencer known as the “queen of livestreaming” has been ordered to pay $204 million (1.3 billion yuan) for tax evasion, authorities said Monday, the biggest fine of its kind in Beijing’s crackdown on celebrities.
Huang Wei, known by her username Viya, is one of China’s most popular e-commerce influencers with over 110 million followers on social media.
Tax authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang said that between 2019 and 2020 she “evaded 643 million yuan of taxes through means such as concealing personal income and false declarations of income.”
“A total of 1.341 billion yuan was imposed on Huang Wei in the collection of taxes, additional late fees and fines,” authorities said in an online statement.
Beijing launched a broader crackdown on tax evasion and immoral behaviour in the entertainment industry earlier this year that has also impacted online influencers and celebrity fan groups.
Last month, two Chinese livestreamers were fined $14 million by Zhejiang tax authorities.
Viya posted a lengthy apology on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.
“During the investigation, I realized my actions indeed violated tax laws and regulations, I am very remorseful and apologise to the public,” she said.
“I fully accept the tax department’s relevant punishment decision made against me in accordance with law.”
The tightening has overlapped with the launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” initiative to reduce economic inequality, which heralded a drive to reduce excessive incomes in sectors such as entertainment and tech.
Viya was previously fined 530,000 yuan ($83,000) in June for violating advertisement laws, after fans accused her of allegedly hawking counterfeit products.
During the wider crackdown, a series of scandals took down some of China’s biggest entertainers.
Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was hit with a $46 million fine for tax evasion.
At the time, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said it had “zero tolerance” for tax evasion and entertainers’ “sky-high pay”.
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