Huang Wei, a Chinese live-stream shopping influencer known as Viya, has been fined $210 million for tax evasion and banned from social media.
Viya, dubbed the “live-streaming queen” in China, was sentenced to pay 1.34 billion yuan in unpaid taxes, late fees, and fines, according to the State Taxation Administration’s website.
According to the Chinese state tabloid Global Times, it’s the highest penalty ever levied on a live-streamer, and it’s a warning that President Xi Jinping’s government isn’t about to lighten up on internet celebrities anytime soon.
Huang dodged more than 640 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes between 2019 and 2020 “by falsely reporting the commission revenue she got from live-streaming platforms,” according to a tax officer in Hangzhou.
“If she can pay the tax, late fee and fine within the prescribed time limit, she will not be investigated for criminal accountability,” the official added. “If she fails … the tax authority will transfer it to the police department for processing according to law.”
Huang had millions of followers on China’s biggest social networking and commerce platforms, including Weibo, Taobao, and the Chinese counterpart of TikTok, Douyin, but her accounts were deleted late Monday.
“This account is banned due to the violation of the platform agreement,” a statement on Douyin read when CNN Business tried to view Huang’s account. Similarly, a statement on Weibo said her account was “not available.”
Huang, though, admitted she felt “very guilty” in a Weibo post reviewed by CNN before her account was taken down.
“Wrong is wrong, and I am willing to take full responsibility for my error,” she wrote in the post.
Dong Haifeng, her husband, also apologised on his Weibo account.
He wrote, “I did not assist Viya in doing a decent job.” “I felt terrible about it. I should apologise to my wife, Viya, in addition to the general public.”
It’s unclear when Huang will return to the internet. Two other big shopping influencers were hit with lower fines by tax authorities in November, but their accounts have yet to be restored.
Huang, 36, has become one of China’s most well-known influencers in the previous decade, assisting in the sale of billions of yuan in items. She has also helped market agricultural products from disadvantaged areas through Alibaba-owned Taobao’s public welfare programmes, for which she has received government accolades.
Over the last few months, Chinese authorities have increased their monitoring of this important industry. The Ministry of Commerce proposed a “industry standard” for live-streamers who sell things on online shopping platforms back in August. Details about how hosts on such shows should look and speak in front of the camera were included in the rules.