Beijing's ongoing housecleaning of all things deemed anti-revolutionary by the principles of President Xi Jinping Thought has once again circled back to social media influencers, a class of business that, like video games, private tutoring, and the technology industry more broadly, is being shaken down for presenting a threat to the CCP's rule.
The latest crackdown involves China's ballooning live streaming business by targeting the individual streamers themselves, according to Bloomberg. On Monday, the State Taxation Administration fined Viya, a top live-streamer, $210MM, and accused her of concealing personal income and making false declarations in 2019 and 2020. It comes after authorities last month fined two live-streamers in Hangzhou nearly $15MM in total for allegedly illegally booking employment income as business income.
The punishments mark what BBG described as "an escalation in President Xi Jinping’s campaign against illegal sources of income as part of China’s 'common prosperity' drive that aims to narrow the wealth gap." We can't help but wonder if they submitted that language to the CCP censors for approval ahead of time. We notice also that there is no byline attached to the story, suggesting that none of the reporters responsible for writing it wanted to take the credit.
This is hardly the first celebrity to be targeted for retaliation by the CCP. Celebrities have been targeted by tax authorities, largely as a pretext for promoting values that the CCP sees as antithetical to its interests. Bloomberg described it as the "improper" idol culture.
And there's of course the issue of tennis star Peng Shuai, who recently recanted her sexual assault accusations against a top CCP member. But we're sure that's all a coincidence, right?
Tax authorities have asked celebrities to report their wrongdoings in exchange for lighter punishment starting in September after announcing new tax checks. More than 1,000 live-streamers and other workers affected have reportedly paid back taxes since then, per the CCP.
Viya, also known as Huang Wei, issued an apology after the punishment was announced. She said on her Weibo account that she felt "deeply guilty" and would pay the fines by the deadline.
Her colleagues better pony up quick. Before it's too late.