The big error was that she was caught
March 27, 2019 1:37 PM   Subscribe

At first, Fan tried to maintain her normal routine. She attended a Celine Dion concert, made a trip to Tibet for charity, and visited a children’s hospital in Shanghai. Then, in the first week of July, she canceled a meeting with a production company, informing them that she had been placed under house arrest. Two days later, Fan Bingbing, the most famous woman in China, whose primary job is being seen by the public, vanished without a trace. (SL Vanity Fair)
posted by devrim (46 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well that... wandered a bit.

Some interesting stuff though. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:59 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


While I'm sure she's a lovely person, and I certainly think there are worse ways to make lots of money than appearing in popular movies, I have to say that I wish the United States were willing to employ light house arrest in cases of multi-million dollar tax fraud.

I always wonder why people who are rich enough to afford everything they could ever, ever want kick so much about paying taxes. I manage to pay mine, and I certainly don't make that kind of money. I mean, why borrow trouble? You have many, many millions of dollars; why not just pay up?
posted by Frowner at 2:03 PM on March 27 [54 favorites]


You have many, many millions of dollars; why not just pay up?

It’s the moral principle of the thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:17 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


I don’t really think “held without contact with a lawyer or family with no privacy even for showers” is really equivalent to “light house arrest” though.
posted by corb at 2:18 PM on March 27 [63 favorites]


I manage to pay mine, and I certainly don't make that kind of money.

The thing about being rich is it leads to a sense of entitlement borne from being able to satisfy any stupid id-driven desire, and pretty soon you've talked yourself out of paying taxes because I JUST DON'T WANNA!
posted by axiom at 2:20 PM on March 27 [14 favorites]


I always wonder why people who are rich enough to afford everything they could ever, ever want kick so much about paying taxes. I manage to pay mine, and I certainly don't make that kind of money.

In theory (a theory the rich frequently cling to) they’re paying one hundred times as much as you are and receiving the exact same services you are. Same parks, same roads, same schools (and they’re not even using the schools).

If you cling tight to that naive understanding the whole thing looks monstrously unfair.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:37 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


If you cling tight to that naive understanding the whole thing looks monstrously unfair..

How much taxes should the top 1% pay? One percent of the taxes! It's so obvious.
posted by thelonius at 2:53 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


talk about burying the lede:
An eminent TV news anchor was taken away hours before going on air. A retired professor with views critical of the government was dragged away during a live interview on Voice of America. A billionaire was abducted from his private quarters in the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. Other high-profile disappearances include Interpol president Meng Hongwei in September, photojournalist Lu Guang in November, two Canadians who went missing in December, as well as the writer Yang Hengjun, who went missing in January. “The message being sent out is that nobody is too tall, too big, too famous, too pretty, too whatever,” said Steve Tsang, who runs the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

it doesnt seem plausible that tax evasion, as such, was the sole or real reason for her abduction. china's approach here does not appear remotely to be a good faith effort to make the rich pay their fair share, nor should the US or any other country try to emulate it.
posted by wibari at 3:01 PM on March 27 [65 favorites]


Yeah, I'm all for making the rich pay their goddamn taxes. I'm not a big fan of disappearing people...any people, even my political enemies.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:04 PM on March 27 [42 favorites]


Yeah, nice burying of the lede. An accusation of tax evasion is an effective way of isolating someone from the general public while simultaneously flexing the power of the state as performance justice. It also a crime that one can recover or be rehabilitated from as a form of leverage.

You are seeing a consolidation of power and the fear being put into a category of people who, in most other circumstances, have power. But that power is shown to be ineffectual when it is pitted against the State. If you are going to look at this playbook, then you need to look no further than the fear that Putin has placed into a tough category of people, oligarch billionaires. This become more interesting in that area with inheritance. transitions.

FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) is not just applicable to software.
posted by jadepearl at 3:22 PM on March 27 [33 favorites]


China through Deng's period was an enormously lawless place. It was a landgrab where you got as much as you could make stick. There has been enormous capital flight out of China in the past decade as the central powers have solidified their rule, under Xi Jinping at its apex. Those close to the center are still rich, still protected, but those who were not quite on the inside are being shown in no uncertain terms the risks of incomplete subservience. I think the disappearance and rehabilitation of Fan Bingbing is seen as the most effective lesson in "this could happen to you" for the rest of the country.
posted by bonehead at 3:43 PM on March 27 [17 favorites]


I don’t really think “held without contact with a lawyer or family with no privacy even for showers” is really equivalent to “light house arrest” though.

It's really weird how recently, without fail, every single post that I see both here on MeFi and elsewhere that's critical of China invariably has comments either downplaying what's going on, engaging in whataboutism, or just a blanket denunciation of the topic as anti-China fear-mongering without engaging what's actually being said.

I'm not accusing anyone posting here of anything, it's just a worrying trend I've noticed, especially in light of things like the Reporters Without Borders report issued this week on China's global initiative to shape and control information about the country. At this point I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see a comment on a post here about China's Muslim internment camps in Xinjiang repeating the party line that they're just “educational training centers" where "the students eat and live for free" and all this criticism is just anti-China Western hysteria.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:14 PM on March 27 [44 favorites]


I think that, simultaneously, there's a lot of anti-Chinese Western hysteria, but also that the Chinese government is up to some heinous shit. Xi Jinping is responsible for some of it, but there's almost certainly a lot that's going on in his name that he isn't aware of and wouldn't have authorised if he was.

I do not buy for a second that Fan Bingbing wasn't made an example of.
posted by Merus at 4:28 PM on March 27 [14 favorites]


I think that, simultaneously, there's a lot of anti-Chinese Western hysteria, but also that the Chinese government is up to some heinous shit.

Yes, this. It's possible to be nuanced about coverage of China in the West without playing down some of the horrible things which are happening. I think everyone should be extremely wary of China under Xi Jinping. I can think this and at the same time eyeroll about some of the more hysterical and borderline racist coverage coming out of the US. I've not seen many situations where consistently creating an evil "other" is helpful.
posted by frumiousb at 4:52 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


>> If you cling tight to that naive understanding the whole thing looks monstrously unfair..
>
>How much taxes should the top 1% pay? One percent of the taxes! It's so obvious.


That’s actually far too much. Everyone should pay the same amount as everyone gets the same services.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:55 PM on March 27


But seriously, why not make an example of a rich person who evades tons of taxes? Isn't that precisely what high-profile convictions for white collar crime are supposed to do?

This whole thing seems like saying, "The US legal system is so terrible! Not only was Chelsea Manning kept in torturous conditions in solitary but they put Martin Shkreli in jail!" And I tend to think that this results from the unsubtlety of a lot of US journalism about China - there's no space to say, "actually, while imprisoning dissidents, busting unions and building camps for Muslims are terrible things, cracking down on tax fraud is okay, and in fact one of the things that the Chinese government gets right". I guarantee you that while the Chinese government is authoritarian and deeply flawed, there are plenty of decent, competent bureaucrats trying to craft and enforce policies for the good of the whole. This is true in the US, it was true in the USSR and I'm sure it's also true in China.
posted by Frowner at 4:56 PM on March 27 [14 favorites]


. “The message being sent out is that nobody is too tall, too big, too famous, too pretty, too whatever,” said Steve Tsang

I'm OK with that when it comes to crime. In the US and much of the rest of the world rich and famous people can do whatever they wanted with no consequences what so ever. I have a much bigger problem with that than shaming tax evaders and putting them under house arrest. Tax evaders should make public apologies and be ashamed and suffer personal and professional consequences.

Do Bono next.
posted by fshgrl at 4:58 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


Tax evasion isn't crime?
posted by Ickster at 5:04 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


But seriously, why not make an example of a rich person who evades tons of taxes? Isn't that precisely what high-profile convictions for white collar crime are supposed to do?

Are you...advocating disappearing people and holding them in inhumane conditions without access to legal counsel or a public trial?

there's no space to say, "actually, while imprisoning dissidents, busting unions and building camps for Muslims are terrible things, cracking down on tax fraud is okay, and in fact one of the things that the Chinese government gets right".

That is because China is not cracking down on tax fraud, they are targeting specific individuals for kidnapping and torture.

Do you...not understand this? Or are you advocating it against the rich?
posted by schadenfrau at 6:00 PM on March 27 [49 favorites]


Also here in hellscape world 2019 we all have to be way less credulous about the reasons we're given for why someone is in jail (Jussie Smollett case), missing (this case), or dead of "suicide" or "accident" (the Ferguson activists). Shit everywhere is *unbelievably* fucked up everywhere.
posted by bleep at 6:05 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


I guarantee you that while the Chinese government is authoritarian and deeply flawed, there are plenty of decent, competent bureaucrats trying to craft and enforce policies for the good of the whole.

Somehow I think this is a road most here would regret travelling. Paved with good intentions and all.

I love when mefites unleash their inner authoritarians. All in the cause of sticking it to the rich and tax cheats.

Yeah, no, this is a shitty development regardless of who is being prosecuted or however good intentions these bureaucrats hold
posted by 2N2222 at 6:16 PM on March 27 [23 favorites]


Hahaha if China wanted to get her for tax they would get her for tax quietly. They did the house arrest and disappearance as a giant warning fuck you to the entire public. Their social credit thing is so vastly terrifying combined with open concentration camps that it's not even bitter-funny, just straight let's laugh in the gulags because tomorrow is fucked.

I try not to think about China too much because I start crying.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:32 PM on March 27 [41 favorites]


The enemy of my enemy isn't necessarily my friend; they could just be my OTHER enemy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:39 PM on March 27 [13 favorites]


...Fan Bingbing, the most famous woman in China, whose primary job is being seen by the public ...

China believes it's in the middle of a fertility crisis.

I don't think confining this exemplary woman to her home has much to do with taxes.
posted by jamjam at 7:22 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Can the Chinese read this or is there a government-imposed ban?
posted by Ideefixe at 8:50 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


cracking down on tax fraud is okay, and in fact one of the things that the Chinese government gets right

But they aren't getting it right, this has nothing to do with tax evasion. There are far, far bigger thieves in China - including arguably Jinping himself who is widely rumoured to have billions stashed away that he's stolen from the state and people.

I agree there are huge elements of hysteria, racism and sinophobia in Western reporting about China.

However there is no rule of law there. Not a little bit. Everything you see and are allowed to see, is a decision made by the party and those who are on its side and can buy their safety.

Fan's "crime" is not what she was punished for, make no mistake.
posted by smoke at 8:53 PM on March 27 [11 favorites]


I just read this article through Lainey Gossip, who linked it with this New Yorker article detailing the bananas world of Chinese social media stardom. It is...wow. Definitely provides a fascinating angle on the entire notion of fame in China today. Very much worth the read.
posted by Go Banana at 8:56 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


“Chinese democracy” - coming soon to the rest of us.
posted by Middlemarch at 10:02 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Yeah, put me down as 'god I wish my country would arrest rich people for tax fraud, but everything about this particular situation is fucked up. I would like actual arrest and a trial please, not a disappearing people for dubious reasons situation.'
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:29 AM on March 28 [11 favorites]


It's really weird how recently, without fail, every single post that I see both here on MeFi and elsewhere that's critical of China invariably has comments either downplaying what's going on, engaging in whataboutism, or just a blanket denunciation of the topic as anti-China fear-mongering without engaging what's actually being said.

Go look at the Falun Gong thread and note the comment about the 'game' being played of "spot the jr agent". And for $5 one can obtain the right to post here. A rather low price to become validated for an influence operation. In a dreaded "whataboutism" - your nation state is taking your tax dollars to do the same someplace else so the better option is to train people to be aware of propaganda (errr public relations) and question what is presented.

But you don't have to be in the employ of the CCP - you could just not want trouble for people the CCP staff could injure in some way. I believe the ADV China/Serpenta/Laowhy86 group (who were mentioned in the Falun Dafa thread in a non-positive light) had a video or 2 on Fan. For those who have the willingness to spend the time - their videos are over a few years and there has been a shift in tone and you can consume them and make up your own mind. Note how once they were out of China the tone changed and STILL state things like 'we are not going to talk about X because we don't want problems for others'.

Note gaokao and how some of the kids that don't make the cut are sent overseas. Look at the press over the social credit system. Now imagnine these young adults sent overseas wanting to not cause a problem back at home. I'd link to the video at China Uncensored which mentions the spending by the CCP on "social stability" as I remember it was over 200 Billion $USD but don't remember which one it was. Of course they are going to make comments of the type noted in italicas at the start of this comment. But if you suffer from a lack of imagination perhaps a trip outside to smell the fresh air might spark your interest to visit the above or below "China channels" to learn more?

Swithcing back to Fan BingBing:

Thus far I've not spotted links to China Uncovered (a top comedy news show!)in the past Metafilter discussions of the Belt and Road or Falun Gong/Falun Dafa. Here's links on Fan. If you want to get a sense of their style of coverage if you are more seeped in American issues they have America Uncovered for you to decide how even handed they may or may not be. Some of you won't like the green new deal piece as an example but that might be a good one to see.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:23 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


" I've not seen many situations where consistently creating an evil "other" is helpful."

Well, except any situation where you need a group of people to band together against another group or issue. Even a simple team-building exercise might involve othering someone or something. The problem isn't it's helpfulness, it is that othering itself is a shape of evil, which builds a case and argument that the Otheringers should be Othered by others. It's possible to have empathy for the human beings of a nation but serious criticism for their government and civil action. We are not a united world, and warring states still vy for power and some are thirstier than others for more land and control. Core values are not shared across the parties of our fucked up Romance of Three Nations.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:39 AM on March 28


talk about burying the lede:
An eminent TV news anchor was taken away hours before going on air. A retired professor with views critical of the government was dragged away during a live interview on Voice of America. A billionaire was abducted from his private quarters in the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. Other high-profile disappearances include Interpol president Meng Hongwei in September, photojournalist Lu Guang in November, two Canadians who went missing in December, as well as the writer Yang Hengjun, who went missing in January. “The message being sent out is that nobody is too tall, too big, too famous, too pretty, too whatever,” said Steve Tsang, who runs the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.


This was the part I wanted more info on. Are we supposed to infer that these people were disappeared, and then later released after their six months were up? Or are they gone forever?
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:31 AM on March 28


It's really weird how recently, without fail, every single post that I see both here on MeFi and elsewhere that's critical of China invariably has comments either downplaying what's going on, engaging in whataboutism, or just a blanket denunciation of the topic as anti-China fear-mongering without engaging what's actually being said.

I suspect a big reason for this is, there's much more awareness these days that the US does really awful rights-violating shit on a regular basis, so criticizing other countries for it may feel like throwing stones in a glass house. I don't agree with that perspective but I can understand it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:41 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I think framing this in terms of "tax evasion" as we understand it in the West is not really accurate, and probably gets close to water-carrying for the Chinese government / Party, as that's exactly how they want people outside China to look at it. Nothing to see here, just going after tax evaders, nobody likes tax evaders, right?

But it should be viewed in terms of a greater and ongoing pattern of rule-through-fear and suppression of anyone who might have a platform that could conceivably be used to challenge the Party line.

Or put differently, if she didn't evade taxes, it would have been quite simple for some extra taxes to have been created for her to evade. Or something else. Spend enough time looking at someone and you can always find something.

It's easy to look at things that happen in China and think "man it'd be nice if we could do that", but that's true of any despotism. I had quite the frisson of satisfaction when I heard that they had taken two of the people responsible for the tainted baby formula and given them some high-velocity thoracic ventilation. How amazing would it be if we could do that to the fucking Sachlers; if the last thing everyone saw when some executive was disgraced wasn't them stepping into a limousine wearing a suit, but smoking their last cigarette? Brilliant.

But, of course, that sense of satisfaction is exactly what that system is designed to produce, and if you start looking at it, that sense of satisfaction is often at best orthogonal to justice in an objective sense. People are chosen for punishment in order to produce the desired effect on public perception, in ways that... frequently don't seem to map to actual culpability. About the most flattering way you can analyze it is as emphasizing deterrence, except that deterrence doesn't really work that way, and I don't think the Chinese are stupid enough to think it does; that leaves the unpalatable realization that it's about managing and diverting public attention away from the government.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:51 AM on March 28 [25 favorites]


Meng Hongwei just had charges announced almost exactly six months after his disappearance. Lu Guang seems to be still missing, with an arrest announced only six weeks after his disappearance, and over 40 other journalists missing as well. The situation with the Canadians and the Australian Yang Hengjun seems even murkier since espionage charges are involved, as well as quid pro quo for the arrest of Meng Wangzhou, the Huawei CFO (and Huawei founder's daughter) in Canada on American charges.

Whatever the putative crimes of all these people, holding them without charges or contact with either family/friends or legal representation is frightening to contemplate. At least the six-month deadline should give families some hope of finding out what happened...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:52 AM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Or put differently, if she didn't evade taxes, it would have been quite simple for some extra taxes to have been created for her to evade. Or something else. Spend enough time looking at someone and you can always find something.

It's the Robespierre doctrine: “Give me six lines written by the most honest man, and I'll give you something to hang him for.”
posted by acb at 8:54 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


I suspect a big reason for this is, there's much more awareness these days that the US does really awful rights-violating shit on a regular basis, so criticizing other countries for it may feel like throwing stones in a glass house. I don't agree with that perspective but I can understand it.

I agree with that perspective. When the most prolific carceral state in the history of the world, which operates what can only rationally be regarded as concentration and forced labour camps for millions of people, starts getting all shocked about the Chinese, "both sides" is exactly what you can expect to hear.
posted by howfar at 10:24 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Frowner:

"I always wonder why people who are rich enough to afford everything they could ever, ever want kick so much about paying taxes. I manage to pay mine, and I certainly don't make that kind of money. I mean, why borrow trouble? You have many, many millions of dollars; why not just pay up?"

So, I pay mid-six figures in taxes annually. I don't begrudge paying those taxes, and as an overall percentage of the money I have, it's not onerous, and as you note, after I pay that I have more than enough money for all the other things I want and need to do. And still, looking at the raw amount of money I send in for taxes is queasy-making, like as in, holy shit that is so much money what the hell I could really use that. For what? Not the right question. It's ultimately not about the utility of it. It's that is just so much. I get over it, but that visceral reaction gives me some insight into why people who are rich (and especially people who have become rich when they've once been poor) might balk at sending all that money to the government.

Mind you, this is just one reason. Other reasons rich people don't like to pay taxes include but are not limited to elitism ("taxes are for little people"), the idea that taxes are just a game anyway and white collar crime is generally not punished with the same severity as other sorts of crime, and being divorced from the day-to-day utility of taxes -- rich people don't use the social services taxes pay for and tend (like everyone else, admittedly) to see infrastructure and other such things like oxygen, i.e., just there and not arising out of anything in particular.

And finally, the rich have so many ways to bend paying their taxes that honestly they might not always be aware of when the bend becomes a break, particularly if they have aggressive financial advisors and/or accountants. One standing order I have with my own financial people is that I am fine using tax breaks, but I want nothing that even vaguely hints at iffyness. As a result I may pay slightly more in taxes than someone else of the same means, but I also don't have to worry about one day spending nine months in the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution.
posted by jscalzi at 10:49 AM on March 28 [29 favorites]


I'm with jscalzi on this one. I literally pay dozens, maybe hundreds of dollars in taxes a year. And yeah, that's a big percentage of my income. There are probably ways around paying that kind of money, but I want to contribute back to society. I just think about some of those low tier billionaires who don't have their own private jet and I pray every night that we can find a way to help them out.

(I kid!)

Here's an actually useful podcast on the scale of the Chinese propaganda effort from Guardian Long Reads.
posted by Telf at 1:06 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Is there a political position for "I'm wary about paying taxes because the Government is just keeping it for themselves rather than actually putting it towards public services so I'd rather just give that money to people ACTUALLY doing this work, most of whom tend to be small community collectives that can't get funding any other way"?
posted by divabat at 3:41 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


that's basically the bog-standard conservative position on taxes, except sometimes they'll just say "churches" instead of "small community collectives"
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:07 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


It's so weird to hear of this as the conservative position, because growing up the conservative position in my country was "the uber right wing government knows best, let it control every bit of you, if you want the government to fund you you must subscribe to and promote its racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic agenda, don't look at how they're siphoning your tax money to buy mansions that's just liberal propaganda". The left-wingers wouldn't trust the Government with a 10 foot pole.

I wonder if it's the same in China?
posted by divabat at 5:58 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


At this point I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see a comment on a post here about China's Muslim internment camps in Xinjiang repeating the party line that they're just “educational training centers" where "the students eat and live for free" and all this criticism is just anti-China Western hysteria.

China Has Also Been Targeting Foreigners In Its Brutal Crackdown On Muslims
posted by divabat at 1:04 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Or put differently, if she didn't evade taxes, it would have been quite simple for some extra taxes to have been created for her to evade. Or something else. Spend enough time looking at someone and you can always find something.

My reading of the article was indeed that there was some tax evasion, but for others in the film industry also a lot of retrospective changing of the rules, Because fear and control.
posted by plonkee at 4:53 PM on March 29


Xi Jinping is responsible for some of it, but there's almost certainly a lot that's going on in his name that he isn't aware of and wouldn't have authorised if he was.

It's just possible that you are joking here, I'm often bad at spotting that. But... seriously??
Shades of Hitler not knowing about the final solution methinks. As for the new Chinese Stalin, they don't call him the 'Chairman of Everything' for no reason. This disappearing people stuff is right up his alley, almost certainly his own idea. We're talking about someone petty and vicious enough to ban Winnie the Pooh for crying out loud.
posted by Atom Collection at 3:06 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


Civilising China? A contentious social credit system moves boldly forward
One of the lucky few, however, is 84-year-old Zou Lizhong, as the cut-off age for the social credit system in his village is 80. He will not lose his welfare benefits, even if he does not volunteer.

[...]

For those blacklisted – over 14 million individuals and businesses – life in China can come to a halt. Take, for example, Mr Tao Mingjian, who ran a company producing construction equipment until he defaulted on more than RMB670,000 in loans.

“I was sued in court. After they enforced the ruling, I wasn’t left with many assets that could be seized. So they could only blacklist me to cause inconvenience in many aspects of my life,” he recounts.

He found out that he was blacklisted, however, only when he was denied a high-speed train ticket. By the end of last year, the system had blocked the purchase of 17.5 million flight tickets and 5.5 million high-speed train tickets.

“Previously, taking the plane or the high-speed rail was so convenient. But now I can only travel by car,” he grouses. “Your spending is limited. They’ll cut off all your cards so you can’t use them.”

His current status makes it hard for him to find employment or restart his business. And as long as he remains blacklisted, his son and daughter would be denied entry to some good schools, the military and the Civil Service.

“Of course I’m worried. I live for my children,” says Mr Tao, who now drives a taxi and sleeps just five hours a day to get by, clear his debts and get off the blacklist.
posted by XMLicious at 11:02 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


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