No one has privilege of overstepping law: Actor Li Yifeng’s detention for soliciting prostitutes ring alarm bells for entertainers
Published: Sep 12, 2022 09:46 PM Updated: Sep 12, 2022 09:43 PM
Chinese actor Li Yifeng Photo:VCG

Chinese actor Li Yifeng Photo:VCG

As the swirl of a prostitution scandal continues to grow over Chinese star Li Yifeng, more institutions have severed their cooperation with him. Some lawyers assume that the popular actor could face a half-month administrative detention while business insiders predict that his prospects of a comeback are hopeless.

The 35-year-old actor, who once had 36 million followers, is losing his fans at a frantic rate, with 300,000 people unsubscribing from his Sina Weibo account in one night, after Li was detained by Beijing police for soliciting prostitutes on Sunday.

The actor was detained for soliciting prostitutes and has confessed his acts, according to the report posted on the Sina Weibo account of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. He has been put under administrative detention according to law, the Beijing police said.

As public figures, famous actors' words and actions are under the spotlight of people from all walks of life, their actions will have an impact on society, China TV Artists Association said in a statement issued on Monday concerning Li's scandal. "They should follow the laws and regulations and cherish their social image more than any others."

No matter what achievements have been made, no matter what honors have been obtained, if they violate laws and regulations, the so-called fame will disappear, the so-called future will also be destroyed, the statement said.

Following the incident, at least 11 brands including Zhenguoli under Mengniu, Prada, Luk Fook Jewelry, Panerai, Sensodyne and Remy Martin have announced the termination of their partnership with Li. By Sunday evening, no search results about Li could be found in the Budweiser and L'Oreal accounts on Weibo, which were previously endorsed by the actor.

The organizing committee of the Huading Awards announced in Macao on Sunday that it has removed Li's titles of "Best Actor in China's Top 100 TV Dramas" and "The National Audience's Favorite Movie Star" he had obtained at the 22nd Huading Awards.

After the incident, the Sichuan Film and Television Academy - Li's Alma Mater, removed posters and related content featuring him.

Incidents involving public figures falling from their "pedestals" for breaking the law often happen with incredible speed. "The entertainment industry is not outside the reach of the law and no one has the privilege of overstepping the law," Legal Daily commented on Sunday.

Zhang Zhongkai, director of Beijing Pengkai Law Firm, believes that although soliciting prostitutes is not a crime in China, one should be punished in accordance with public security administration law.

"According to the administrative punishment law of public security in China, those who engage in prostitution or solicit prostitutes shall be detained for not less than 10 days but not more than 15 days and may also be fined not more than 5,000 yuan ($722)," Zhang noted. "It should be noted that soliciting prostitutes involves teenagers under the age of 14, or people who knowingly suffer from syphilis, gonorrhea and other serious sexually transmitted diseases, constitutes a crime."

The incident shows the country's determination to investigate and punish all kinds of illegal activities in the field of entertainment, a netizen commented. Anyone, no matter how famous, how much fame or fans he or she has, should abide by the law, and defend the bottom line. Otherwise, they will be lost in the ruins and suffer a backlash from their own "popularity," read many comments.

In February 2021, the China Performance Industry Association issued the measures for the self-regulation of performers in the performance industry, explicitly requiring members of the industry to boycott performers who violate relevant norms for a certain period.

In March, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced that it would crack down on illegal comebacks of tainted stars and reincarnations of entertainers whose accounts had been blocked.

So far, several well-known entertainers, including Kris Wu, Zheng Shuang, Li Yundi and Wang Leehom have been investigated and rectified over their tax problems and illegal or criminal activities.

Unlike Kris Wu, who was approved to be arrested under the name of rape, Li's case has yet to involve a criminal offense. However, movie critic and film producer Tan Fei told the Global Times on Monday that Li's soliciting of prostitutes has fallen into the definition of "misbehaving celebrities" - stars who use drugs or visit prostitutes - by the CAC.

"There is no doubt that Li will pay for his fall from grace by dropping out of public view," said Tan.

According to the regulation of China's top cyberspace authority, two upcoming films starring Li, Playground and Animal World 2, will surely be affected.

Industry insiders predicted that it is very unlikely that Li will reemerge as a public figure again considering his moral failings, which may lead to a negative public impact on society, especially among younger people.