Chinese actress Fan Bingbing appointed Malaysia tourism envoy but tax concerns continue

“Why hire her? There are plenty of other Chinese celebrities with no record of wrongdoing,” said one online observer.

Another added: “She evaded taxes and was censored in China, but got lots of work overseas. This appointment is beyond my imagination.”

The 42-year-old actress was one of China’s highest-paid stars and one of the most internationally famous artists to come from China until she was investigated in May 2018 for suspected tax evasion.

She allegedly signed two contracts to hide her true income.

In October 2018, tax authorities ordered her to pay approximately 884 million yuan (US$122 million) in late taxes and penalties.

Following her travel ban from China, Fan Bingbing has been working to boost her global profile. Photo: Shutterstock

This was the largest amount paid by a single public figure in a tax lawsuit in the country’s history.

Fan is banned from acting in China and is not allowed to make films, and has received little media coverage of her in mainland China, although her work remains available to buy online.

However, reaction to Fan’s appointment in Malaysia has been largely positive.

“I think she is the only Chinese star who has made a name for herself to promote overseas tourism. Isn’t this a kind of triumphant honour for our country?” said one Chinese online observer.

“She really is an international star, that’s why she’s so popular in Malaysia and was appointed as a tourism ambassador,” said another Weibo user.

She visited the state from June 14 to 16 to promote tourism.

Melaka Chief Minister Abu Rauf Yusoh announced her appointment as tourism ambassador at the end of May.

Her appointment to her new position was largely due to the connections of Malaysian agent Jersey Chong.

“I am very happy to have been entrusted with this role. I feel both honoured and a great responsibility as a tourism ambassador,” Fan, dressed in traditional local dress, said at a media event in Melaka.

“We want to let people not only in China but all over the world know that Melaka is a great place for leisure and travel. Its long history, beautiful scenery, delicious food and the simplicity and hospitality of the locals should be known by more people,” she added.

The star remains active on China’s X-like platform Weibo, where he has 63 million followers.

Fan did not directly respond to media queries about whether he plans to live in Malaysia, buy property in Malaysia or take part in Malaysia’s retirement residence visa programme.

She simply said that the country is familiar to her because she has Malaysian colleagues and is interested in learning about the local culture.

“There are many filmmakers and talented people in Malaysia and I would love to collaborate with them one day,” Fan said.

The Chinese star received overwhelming support in Melaka, with local fans holding photos, posters and dolls of her and asking for her autograph.

A mural depicting Wu Mei-Niang, a famous character Mr Fan played on a TV show some years ago dressed in traditional Chinese costume, was recently completed on one of Melaka’s main streets.

The actress was given a warm welcome by locals when she visited Melaka earlier this month. Photo: Shutterstock

Fan said Malaysia has many of the characteristics of Dali, Yunnan province in southwest China, boasting both a rich history and a tranquil environment.

The actress has been building her career overseas in recent years.

She attended the Berlin International Film Festival last year. Green Knight A work in which she plays the lead role.

The film, set in South Korea, was nominated for a Teddy Award and a Panorama Audience Award.

Earlier this year, she was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to attend an event marking the local new year, Songkran festival, aimed at promoting tourism.

Speaking at a film festival in Singapore last year, Ms Fan said the ban on her filmmaking was “disappointing and cruel”.

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