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China, The missing film star (and a $127m tax bill)

Par Steve Rose - 2 mn

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Off the radar Fan Bingbing has had tax troubles GISELA SCHOBER/GETTY

Imagine if Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson went missing and nobody knew where they had gone – even three months later. That is what happened to Fan Bingbing. She is one of China’s best known and highest-paid actors, thanks to a string of domestic hits such as Cell Phone and Double Xposure.

On 2 July this year she posted details of a visit to a children’s hospital in Tibet on Weibo. Then her account went dead, leaving her 63 million followers wondering what had happened. Had Fan been abducted? Arrested? The questions piled up, then tipped over into conspiracy theory. There were baseless rumours she and husband Li Chen gambled away $12m in three days in Las Vegas. That she was being held in a military prison in Beijing after having an affair with Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan.

The most credible rumour may have been that Fan was in trouble with the tax office, which is not quite as prosaic as it sou...