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China’s Livestreaming Queen Viya Goes Viral for Fraud and Fines, Ordered to Pay $210 Million

Viya, the Queen of Taobao, is under fire for tax evasion.

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Viya, one of China’s most well-known and successful live streamers, is trending today for allegedly committing tax fraud by deliberately providing false information and concealing personal income.

The ‘Taobao queen’ Viya (薇娅, real name Huang Wei 黄薇) reportedly committed tax fraud from 2019 to 2020, during which she evaded some 643 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes and also failed to pay an additional 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) in taxes.

The Hangzhou Tax Administration Office reportedly ordered Viya to pay an amount of over 1.3 billion yuan ($210 million) in taxes, late payment fees, and other fines. On Monday, a hashtag related to the issue had garnered over 600 million views on Weibo (#薇娅偷逃税被追缴并处罚款13.41亿元#).

Viya made headlines in English-language media earlier this year when she participated in a promotional event for Single’s Day on October 20th and managed to sell 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in merchandise in just one live streaming session together with e-commerce superstar Lipstick King.

China has a booming livestreaming e-commerce market, and Viya is one of the top influencers to have joined the thriving online sales industry years ago. When the e-commerce platform Taobao started their Taobao Live initiative (mixing online sales with livestreams), Viya became one of their top sellers as millions of viewers starting joining her channel every single day (she livestreams daily at 7.30 pm).

With news about Viya’s tax fraud practices and enormous fines going viral on Chinese social media, many are attacking the top influencer, as her tax fraud case seems to be even bigger than that of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰).

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing went “missing” for months back in 2018 when she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal. The actress was ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion. The famous actress eventually paid approximately $128,5 million in taxes and fines, less than Viya was ordered to pay this month.

Like Fan Bingbing, Viya will also not be held criminally liable if the total amount is paid in time. This was the first time for the e-commerce star to be “administratively punished” for tax evasion.

Around 5pm on Monday, Viya posted a public apology on her Weibo account, saying she takes on full responsibility for the errors she made: “I was wrong, and I will bear all the consequences for my mistakes. I’m so sorry!”

It is not clear if she will still do her daily live stream later today and how this news will impact Viya’s future career.

Update: Vaya’s live stream was canceled.

Update 2: Vaya’s husband also issued an apology on Weibo.

Update 3: Taobao has suspended or ‘frozen’ (“冻结”) Vaya’s livestreaming channel. Her Taobao store is still online.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

Weibo Shuts Down Rumors of Tong Liya’s Alleged Marriage to CMG President Shen Haixiong

The censorship surrounding the Tong Liya story almost drew more attention than the actual rumors themselves.

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The famous actress and dancer Tong Liya (佟丽娅, 1983) has had an eventful year. After hosting the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2020, she performed at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in February of 2021 and in May she announced that after seven years of marriage, she finalized her divorce with actor and director Chen Sicheng (陈思诚).

Tong Liya is of Xibe ethnicity and was born in Xinjiang. The former beauty pageant and award-winning actress is known for her roles in many films and TV series, such as those in The Queens and Beijing Love Story. She also starred in the 2021 Chinese historical film 1921, which focuses on the founding of the Communist Party of China.

This month, online rumors about Tong flooded the internet, alleging that she was recently remarried to Shen Haixiong (慎海雄, 1967), the deputy minister of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the President of the CMG (China Media Group), which includes CCTV, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

Some of the rumors included those claiming the actress was previously Shen’s mistress, or netizens connecting Tong Liya’s relations with such an influential and powerful person to her role at the previous CCTV Spring Gala Festival.

But these rumors did not stay online for long, and the quick censorship itself became somewhat of a spectacle. As reported by China Digital Times, the topic ‘Tong Liya’s Remarriage’ (‘佟丽娅再婚’) was completely taken offline.

Following the rumors and censorship, it first was announced that Tong reported the online rumors about her to the police, with the hashtag “Tong Liya Reports the Case to Authorities” (#佟丽娅报案#) receiving over 310 million clicks. On December 23rd, the hashtag “Beijing Police is Handling Tong Liya’s Report” (#北京警方受理佟丽娅报案#) went viral online, attracting over 1.7 billion (!) views on Weibo within three days.

The Beijing Haidian police statement on Weibo is as follows:

In response to the recent rumors on the Internet, the public security authorities have accepted Tong Liya’s report, and the case is now under investigation. The internet is not a place beyond the law, and illegal acts such as starting rumors and provoking trouble will be investigated and punished according to the law.”

The statement led to some confused responses among netizens who wanted to know more about what was actually reported and what it is the police are exactly ‘investigating.’

On Twitter, Vice reporter Viola Zhou wrote that the censorship “angered many young people,” some of whom lost their social media accounts for discussing Tong Liya’s second marriage: “It’s now prompting a mass pushback against the potential abuse of censorship power.”

In an attempt to circumvent censorship, and perhaps also ridicule it, some netizens even resorted to morse code to write about Tong Liya.

One Weibo post about the issue by Legal Daily received over 3000 comments, yet none were displayed at the time of writing.

The case is allegedly still being investigated by Beijing authorities.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Divorce Drama: Wang Leehom and Lee Jinglei’s Wild Weibo Week

Wang Leehom’s marriage ended, and so did all of his sponsorship deals.

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Wang Leehom and Lee Jinglei are dominating trending topic lists on Weibo this weekend. There has not been a bigger online drama surrounding a celebrity divorce since Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong.

Besides Westlife’s online China concert, the divorce of Mandopop star Wang Leehom (王力宏) and Lee Jinglei (李靚蕾) was one of the major Weibo topics this week.

Wang Leehom (1976) is a popular Taiwanese-American singer and actor who has previously been dubbed the “King of Chinese Pop.” Now, it’s not his music that has gone viral on Chinese social media, but his tumultuous personal life.

On December 15, Wang announced that after eight years of marriage, he was divorcing his wife Lee Jinglei (1986) after the couple had decided to each go their separate ways. That announcement received over 100,000 comments and 3,5 million likes on Weibo, where Wang has over 67 million fans (@王力宏).

On Friday, December 17, Wang’s ex-wife published a lengthy post in which she accused Wang of wrongdoings during their marriage. Lee Jinglei has over three million fans on her Weibo account (@李靚蕾Jinglei). That post received a staggering 11,9 million likes within two days time (for reference, one of the Weibo posts with the most likes received some 19 million likes).

Lee called writing her post “one of the most difficult decisions” she ever made in her life.

In the lengthy text, Lee explains how she sacrificed a lot – including her own career – to start a family with Wang and dedicate herself to being a wife and a mother to their three children. Raising the issue of how women often face financial income inequality in marriage, Lee writes that she feels Wang treated her unfairly during their married life. She also alleges Wang had several affairs and visited prostitutes, while also being an absent father.

Wang and Lee in happier times.

Rather than a loyal husband and a loving dad, Lee paints a picture of Lee as a manipulative liar and a serial cheater.

Lee and her children.

The very next day after the post, various brands that Wang worked for as a brand spokesperson started to terminate their contracts. The hashtag “Multiple Brands Terminate Wang Leehom Contract” (#多个品牌陆续和王力宏解约#) started trending online as luxury car brand Infiniti, jewelry brand Chow Tai Seng and others announced they would no longer work with Wang Leehom.

By the weekend, the storm had not blown over at all, as Wang Leehom’s father released a handwritten letter to Taiwanese media in response to the issue. In his letter, Wang’s father defended his son’s reputation, denied any affairs, and alleged that Lee threatened Wang into marrying her in late 2013 after falling pregnant with their first child. At the time, Wang was 37 years old and Lee was a 27-year-old Columbia University graduate student.

Wang’s dad joined the drama.

In May of 2014, Wang announced that Lee Jinglei was five months pregnant and in July of that year, the two welcomed their first child.

Wang’s dad claims that he regrets approving of the marriage between his son and Lee, saying that he felt it was the right thing to do to at the time to protect Wang’s career and to ensure the wellbeing of the baby.

The hashtag “The Handwritten Letter by Wang Leehom’s Dad” (#王力宏父亲手写信#) received over 750 million views on Weibo on Sunday.

That same day, Lee Jinglei again posted a very long post in which she condemned the statement by her former father-in-law and denied all accusations that she forced Wang into marrying her. She also demanded a public apology and said she would be prepared to sue Wang and his dad for slander.

As if all of this wasn’t enough already, Wang posted another statement on Sunday night, just after 23:00, in which he shared his grievances about the endless problems and unhappiness during their marriage and apologized to his parents. That post received over 5 million likes just 90 minutes after it was posted, and nearly 400,000 comments.

Among the thousands of Weibo responses, many people say they see the divorce drama between Wang and Hong as one more reason not to get married themselves.

Many others condemn Wang and say he used Lee as a ‘breeding unit.’ The majority of people support Lee and also criticize Wang’s latest post, wondering if the blacklisted actress Zheng Shuang helped him write it.

There are also those who are shocked to see another favorite celebrity being ‘canceled’ as there have already been many people in China’s entertainment industry who have been canceled this year, including singer Kris Wu (arrested for rape charges), China’s ‘Piano Prince’ Li Yundi (prostitution case), and many more.

Some commenters also see a bright spot in all the drama, remarking that after all disagreements between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese netizens, “there’s finally one thing that the two sides of Strait can all agree about.”

Update: It seems like nobody on Weibo is sleeping tonight. On December 20th at 1:31 am, Lee posted another post responding to Wang’s latest statements. Within an hour of posting, that Weibo post also was reposted over 24,000 times and received over 640,000 likes. In this post, Lee debunks any allegations Wang made about her and their marriage, claiming she is the one to suffer mental abuse by him and also addressing other issues. 

 

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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