The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
All websites in all areas, draft content related to tax issues involving people in the film and television industry and “yin-yang contracts” should be held back. News clients should remove drafts from publishing queues, and may not add any new ones. Related trending topics and searches must be removed without exception. Each website and platform, please immediately report on arrangements for self-inspection. Send me related data and feedback by 8:50pm. Lack of receipt will be taken as tacit statement that everything is normal: please reply upon receipt. Thank you! (June 9) [Chinese]
Chinese tax authorities launched an investigation last week after CCTV presenter Cui Yongyuan revealed a pair of apparent “yin-yang contracts” for film star Fan Bingbing’s role in director Feng Xiaogang’s “Cell Phone 2”: one for the real sum, and another showing a much lower value. This ruse is often used to evade taxes in deals such as real estate transactions, but Variety’s Patrick Frater notes that in this case, it may also have been intended to dodge official regulations meant to dampen celebrity culture:
Fan, China’s biggest celebrity and co-star of Jessica Chastain’s forthcoming action film “355,” reacted furiously last week when details of a contract were leaked online by TV anchor Cui Yongyuan. His initial disclosure showed Fan being paid $1.56 million (RMB10 million) for four days’ work on Feng Xiaogang-directed “Cell Phone 2.” Cui followed up by releasing a second contract worth $7.8 million (RMB50 million) for the same work. He suggested that the intent was to allow Fan to declare only the smaller contract to tax authorities, rather than her full $9.3 million (RMB60 million) compensation.
Fan has denied any impropriety and hired lawyers to defend her. Cui’s social media posting was viewed 38 million times before being removed on Sunday, state-owned Global Times reported.
The disclosure was an embarrassment for both Fan and for China’s media regulators. Last year, five government agencies issued directives urging media companies to focus on culture rather than celebrity, and moved to rein in runaway paydays for stars. As part of last year’s supposed crackdown, the China Alliance of Radio Film and Television issued guidelines that sought to limit on-screen performers’ pay to 40% of a production’s total cost. It also sought to cap the leading star’s pay at a maximum of 70% of total payments to cast. The Yin-Yang contracts appear to be a way to skirt those rules. [Source]
Read more about the case and its context from Pang-chieh Ho at SupChina, and about entertainment industry tax tactics from The Economist. The story spawned a curious tangent last week when several media outlets accidentally illustrated their coverage with a photograph of Fan lookalike He Chengxi, who reportedly underwent several cosmetic surgeries over eight years in a quest to resemble the actor.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.