Top Chinese Live-Streamer Hit With $210 Million Tax Evasion Bill
Viya, China’s A-List internet sensation has received a $210 million tax evasion fine – an equivalent of 1.34 billion yuan.
Huang Wei, popularly known as Viya, is a 36-year-old internet star with tens of millions of followers across several social media platforms. She is known for breaking Taobao, a Chinese e-commerce platform, with her shopping live-stream that has garnered a lot of attention across the country over the past few years.
Viya is known for her unique ability as an effective saleswoman. In 2020, she successfully sold a $6 million (40 million yuan) rocket launch service. In addition, she managed to raise a whopping sum of $32 million in a few hours to support people who struggled to survive in Wuhan after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. She did all this via a live stream.
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On Monday, the Chinese government hit her with a record tax bill of $210 million. The government said the “queen of live streaming”, as she is dubbed, was a notorious tax evader as she has refused to disclose the income from her live streams between 2019 and 2020 as well as other financial crimes.
As a result, they placed a hefty fine on her as a warning to aspiring social-media stars who might want to walk in her shoes.
The government’s decision seems to be working out so far, as China News Service reports that thousands of Chinese influencers are rushing out to pay back pending taxes. In September, the government announced that it would enforce stricter regulations on the entertainment sector. Heavy penalties would be meted out to those who refuse to comply and fix their tax arrears before the end of 2021.
Cherie and Sunnie, two other A-List Chinese live streamers, were among the first victims. They were charged a total of $15 million collectively in September. Needless to say, they were found guilty of tax evasion and their Weibo accounts were removed immediately.
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The Chinese live-streaming industry is the biggest in the world with over 400 million video bloggers (vloggers) residing in the country. Xi Jinping, the president of the tax bureau, explained that the tax is aimed at clamping down on excessive incomes in the industry and cutting economic inequality. Bloomberg reports that celebrities and live-streamers are the targets of the bill.
On Monday, Viya was reported to have apologized for her actions. She is “deeply guilty” and has agreed to the terms of the government and said she “will actively raise money to pay the fine on time.” Reuters news agency reports that she was supposed to host a cosmetic sales event on Monday evening before her streaming accounts went missing in action.
Her Weibo account, with over 18 million followers, has been taken down. She no longer has access to her Taobao account. Even Douyin took her account down immediately in response to the government’s decision. Viya’s fans hope that this phase will pass soon and they will be able to watch their favourite celebrity once again without restrictions.
She is currently trending on Weibo with the hashtag #ViyaCompletelyBlockedOnline. However, this does not come as a surprise, as Viya was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 influential figures in 2021. We can only hope that she acts immediately and has her dignity restored before she loses more deals to the ban.
In November, the Chinese government warned celebrities against flaunting their wealth. They were admonished to keep the core socialist values of the country or face severe punishment. 88 celebrities were indicted for “illegal and unethical” behaviour. The Chinese tax bureau hopes that the intensified efforts to fish out tax evaders will regulate the actions of celebrities.