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China imposes a fine on a 'live-streaming queen' Viya has been fined $210 million for tax evasion



Huang Wei, also known as Viya, a Chinese live-stream shopping influencer, has been hit with a hefty $210 million tax evasion penalty and barred from using social media for a period of six months.


State Taxation Administration reported on its website on Monday that Viya, called the "live-streaming queen" in China, had been ordered to pay 1.34 billion yuan in unpaid taxes, late fees, and fines totaling 1.34 billion yuan.


It has been reported by the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times that this is the most severe punishment ever meted out to a live-streamer, and it is an indicator that President Xi Jinping's government will not back down on pressure on online celebrities in the near future.


Huang evaded taxes to the tune of approximately 640 million yuan ($100 million) between 2019 and 2020 "by illegally claiming commission revenue she received from live-streaming platforms," according to a tax officer in Hangzhou on Monday.


If she pays the tax, late charge, and fine in full within the prescribed time frame, the official stated that she will not be subject to criminal prosecution. The tax authority will forward the information to the police department for proper processing if she is unable to comply.


Huang had millions of followers across China's most popular social media and commerce platforms — including Weibo, the online shopping portal Taobao, and the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Douyin — but her accounts were erased late Monday night, according to reports.


When CNN Business attempted to access Huang's account on Douyin, a notification on the site stated, "This account has been suspended due to a violation of the platform agreement." Huang's account was later restored. Additionally, her account was "not accessible," according to a Weibo statement.


CNN was able to see Huang's Weibo tweet prior to her account being suspended, in which she said she was "extremely guilty," according to CNN.


'Wrong is wrong,' she continued in her blog piece. "I am willing to accept the consequences of my mistake."


Dong Haifeng, her husband, expressed his regrets on his Weibo account as well.


"I did not contribute to Viya's success," he admitted in his letter. "I was filled with a great deal of remorse. Not only should I apologize to the general public, but I should also apologize to my wife, Viya."


The exact date of Huang's return is uncertain. In November, tax authorities reduced the penalty assessed against two additional prominent shopping influencers, both of whom have yet to have their accounts restored.



The 36-year-old Huang has risen to notoriety as one of China's most prominent figures over the last decade, assisting in the sale of artifacts valued in the hundreds of millions of yuan. Aside from that, she has taken part in public welfare events held by Alibaba-owned Taobao, such as assisting in the sale of agricultural products from underprivileged areas, for which she has gotten official recognition from the Chinese government.


During the past few months, Chinese authorities have intensified their oversight of this key business. A "industry standard" for live-streamers who also sell items on online shopping platforms was proposed by the Ministry of Commerce in August, according to Reuters. The standards specified how hosts of such shows were to dress and how they were to speak to the camera.


Viya's fine, which rocked the region's live-streaming market, sent China's technology stocks plunging in Hong Kong upon the announcement of the fine. Alibaba (BABA) and Kuaishou Technology (KUE) both saw their stock prices fall by roughly 1%, while video-sharing service Bilibili (BILI) saw its stock price drop by more than 6%.


Xi Jinping's "shared prosperity" campaign includes an attack on wealthy social media stars at a time when the Chinese president is keen to redistribute wealth in the world's second largest economy as part of his "shared prosperity" initiative.

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