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Chinese superstar fined $295 million

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A top Chinese influencer says she is “deeply sorry” after being hit with a mind-blowing fine after landing in hot water over her tax affairs.

A leading Chinese influencer – known as the “queen of livestreaming” – has been hit with a record fine for “major tax evasion”.

Huang Wei – known as Viya by her fans – was fined 1.34 billion yuan ($A295 million), authorities announced this week.

According to the Hangzhou Taxation Bureau, Viya avoided taxes in 2019 and 2020 via a range of tax evasion methods such as hiding commission fees, declaring personal wages as corporate income and omitting reports of taxable income.

She was also accused of several other offences during that period

“In recent years, the taxation department has been paying attention to and continuing to regulate the taxation order of the webcast industry,” the bureau said in a statement.

“Our analysis found that some online anchors have certain tax-related risks, and timely risk checks have been carried out to prompt and counsel relevant online anchors to pay taxes in accordance with the law.

“After analysing and evaluating tax … data, it was found that Huang Wei was suspected of major tax evasion, and the rectification was not thorough after repeated reminders and urges by the tax authorities.”

Viya, who boasts an online following in the tens of millions, uses her platform to sell a range of products, including goods worth a total of 8.5 billion yuan in one evening this Singles’ Day alone.

In a grovelling apology posted on her Weibo account – the Chinese equivalent of Facebook and Twitter – the 36-year-old said she felt “deeply sorry” over the charges.

“I’m deeply sorry about my violations of the tax laws and regulations,” the post reads.

“I thoroughly accept the punishment made by the tax regulator and will actively collect funds to pay the fines within the deadline.”

Viya will not pay criminal charges provided she pays the fine in full within a set time period.

In a scathing op-ed, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times said Viya’s fine served as a warning to others, stating the case “proves that no one can cross the legal line, no matter what industry they are in”.

“The top internet celebrities are representatives of the super-high income group,” the article states.

“They should stick to the bottom line of the law, actively assume social responsibilities, and become a model for paying taxes, and it is the right time for the taxation department to undertake such investigations.”

Viya’s harsh punishment comes amid President Xi Jinping’s recent massive crackdown on influencers.

Just last month, a string of fellow prominent livetsreamers were also issued significant fines by Chinese authorities, including Zhu Chenhui, who was fined $A14.3 million, and Lin Shanshan, who was slugged $A6 million.

Both also had their Weibo accounts shut down.

Xi cracks down

The recent targeting of online influencers comes amid a broader crackdown on celebrities and business moguls in recent years.

In 2018, actress Fan Bingbing made headlines after she and her associated businesses were fined millions of yuan.

Since then, her career has crumbled and she has barely been seen in public.

“Everyone is equal before the law, there is no ‘superstar’ or ‘rich and powerful,’ no one can despise the law and hope to be lucky,” the Xinhua News Agency said of the Fan saga.

Other high-profile Chinese figures to land in hot water in recent years include Alibaba founder Jack Ma and actress, who was also fined millions of dollars for tax evasion in August.

Read related topics:China

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