Chinese Regulators Target “Chaotic” Online Fan Culture While Actress Zheng Shuang Faces Probe for Tax Evasion and Fraud

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently issued a new notice against what it calls “chaotic” online fan culture. Officials at the department said that since the launch of a nationwide campaign to discipline online fan clubs, certain results have been achieved. In order to further strengthen governance, 10 specific measures were listed, emphasizing the main responsibility of platforms.

First, the CAC requires platforms to remove popularity lists. It is strictly forbidden to add or disguise such lists and related products or functions. Platforms have to remove information of unreasonable consumption, invasion of privacy, unwarranted abuse and attacks and strictly deal with illegal accounts. The content of the notice from CAC is attached at the end of this article.

Meanwhile, according to Chinese state-owned media, the Shanghai Taxation Bureau conducted an in-depth inspection according to laws and regulations based on the report that actress Zheng Shuang was suspected of tax evasion and fraud. Recently, it has been found that Zheng Shuang failed to declare personal income of 191 million yuan ($29.452 million), evaded taxes worth 45.2696 million yuan and underpaid other taxes of 26.5207 million yuan from 2019 to 2020. The bureau made a penalty decision on Zheng to recover taxes, impose late payment fees and impose a further fine of 299 million yuan, according to law.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang (Image: VCG)

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The 10 measures in the recent CAC notice are as follows:

1. Remove popularity lists on all platforms. Websites must cancel all rankings involving individual or group celebrities and stars. Only the ranking of music, film and television works can be retained, but no personal signs such as the names of celebrities can appear.

2. Optimize the ranking rules. It is not allowed to set up functions to induce irrational support behavior, such as paid sign-in functions. Platforms should guide fans to pay more attention to the quality of cultural products.

3. Strictly regulate management companies. Platforms have to stress their responsibility for the online behavior of management companies, regulate relevant online operation specifications, and make clear provisions such as account registration and authentication, content release, commercial promotion, public relations and management of their staunch supporters.

4. Regulate fan group accounts. To strengthen the management of the accounts of fan groups and clubs, platforms have to require that the accounts are authorized or certified by management companies, which are responsible for daily maintenance and supervision of these accounts.

5. Platforms and websites must fulfill their management responsibilities, discover and clean up all kinds of harmful information and strictly deal with accounts that violate laws and regulations. Platforms that are poorly managed will be penalized.

6. Fan communities, clubs and channels that violate regulations and laws, or otherwise result in negative outcomes, must be banned by platforms.

7. Management companies cannot contribute money to celebrities and stars’ albums or other works and products.

8. Strengthen the online behavior management of variety shows. Platforms cannot set up the function of “spending money to vote.” It is strictly forbidden to guide or encourage netizens to vote for idols by means of shopping and membership.

9. Strictly control the participation of minors. Platforms and management companies cannot provide services for minors to contribute money or to serve as relevant fan club owners or managers. Minors are restricted from voting popularity lists. Online activities organized by fan clubs cannot affect minors’ study or rest, nor are minors allowed to carry out online gatherings.

10. Platforms must discover and clean up all kinds of illegal fund-raising information in time. Websites that induce minors to participate in fundraising will be punished according to laws and regulations. Regulators will continue to investigate and dispose overseas websites that provide rankings, popularity listing and fundraising for online fan clubs.