Viya, who is known for hosting a popular shopping stream on the e-commerce platform Taobao, was slapped with a record 1.341 billion Chinese yuan ($210 million) fine for tax evasion.
The 36-year-old once had over 120 million followers on various platforms, according to TechNode, and is known for her ability to sell almost anything, including a 40 million Chinese yuan ($6 million) rocket launch service, in 2020.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Viya hosted a live stream to raise funds for businesses and individuals struggling in COVID-wracked Wuhan and managed to raise around $32 million within a matter of hours.
According to the state-owned China News Service (CNS), more than 1,000 live streamers have stepped forward to pay back taxes following the government's September announcement that it would strengthen its regulation of state revenue collection from the entertainment sector. Taxpayers have until the end of 2021 to rectify their taxes arrears to avoid heavy penalties, according to CNS.
Two other high-profile Chinese live streamers — Cherie and Sunny — were fined $15 million collectively in September for tax evasion, but Viya is the most significant star to have fallen so far.
Viya apologized for the breach on her Weibo microblog account, which had around 18 million followers, on Monday after news broke, saying she felt "deeply guilty" and would "totally accept" the punishment meted by the tax authority, according to a copy of the notice Insider saw. She also pledged to pay the fine on time.
Despite the apology, Weibo (China's version of Twitter), Douyin (China's version of TikTok), and Taobao took her accounts offline.
Beijing is intensifying oversight of the entertainment industry and regulating what celebrities can do. China's internet regulator said in November that celebrities in China must avoid flaunting their wealth and adhere to "core socialist values."
In November, China also revealed a blacklist which included the names of 88 celebrities it had cited for "illegal and unethical" behavior.
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