The Straits Times/Asia News Network
Chinese actress Fan Bingbing at the screening of the film 'Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows)' and the opening ceremony of the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, on May 8, 2018. (AFP/Loic Venance)
Fan Bingbing is back.
The Chinese superstar appeared in public for the first time since her tax-evasion scandal broke in May last year, signalling her likely full return to show business.
The 37-year-old actress turned up on the red carpet of iQiyi's ninth anniversary gala in Beijing on Monday, but did not accept any interviews from the media. Sources told the media that she is using the occasion to test waters and gauge the level of public attention on her comeback.
iQiyi is one of China's three major video-streaming companies - the other two are Youku Tudou and Tencent Video - and Fan's attendance at the gala meant that she has been welcomed back by the country's entertainment industry.
She donned an Alexander McQueen suit, carried a Louis Vuitton bag and wore De Beers jewellery on the red carpet, which signified that the fashion industry is also supporting her return.
Fan's latest appearance marked a complete turnaround of her fortunes.
She disappeared from public view for several months last year over her alleged inking of the so-called "yin-and-yang contracts" in a bid to avoid paying more taxes.
The practice involves having one contract spell out the actual payment, while submitting a different one to the tax authorities to declare less income.
She resurfaced on social media in October last year after an investigation by the Chinese tax authorities found that she had split her contract to evade taxes.
She was then ordered to pay more than 800 million yuan (S$162 million) in overdue taxes and fines. She posted an apology note on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, after the authorities meted out the punishment.
According to trade publication Variety, Fan is set to return to the big screen in Hollywood movie 355, an all-female spy thriller which also stars Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Lupita Nyong'o.
She was cast a few months before the tax-evasion scandal led to talks that she would be replaced by another actress. Director Simon Kinberg has confirmed that the film would begin shooting this year.
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