China's online sales queen Viya fined $210 million for tax evasion


China's "queen of livestreaming" has been fined 1.34 billion yuan ($210.16 million) for tax evasion, tax authorities said on Monday.

Internet celebrity Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined for hiding personal income and other offences in 2019 and 2020, according to the tax bureau in Hangzhou, a city in southern China.

She later apologised.

"I'm deeply sorry about my violations of the tax laws and regulations," she said on her Weibo account. "I thoroughly accept the punishment made by the tax authorities."

Viya, 36, is known for her ability to sell "anything" via livestreaming on the Taobao Live platform. Last year, she sold a rocket launch service for 40 million yuan.

In a recent online shopping festival known as Singles' Day, she sold products worth a total of 8.5 billion yuan in one evening, according to media reports.

Viya is the latest celebrity livestreamer to get caught up in a broad crackdown that initially targetted tech monopolies but has since gone on to take aim at private education, social media platforms, and the culture of celebrity.

Before the crackdown, tax evasion had already sunk the career of several well-known figures in the entertainment industry.

Viya, however, represents a new generation of celebrities, whose meteoric rise to fame has been powered by the equally dizzying growth of China's e-commerce sector, many aspects of which have come under regulatory scrutiny.

Two e-commerce livestreaming influencers were reported to be under investigation for personal tax evasion last month and were together fined nearly 100 million yuan. Their livestreaming services have since closed.

Viya was scheduled to conduct a livestreaming at 7:00 pm on Monday, focusing on cosmetics. A check of her Taobao livestreaming studio showed that a reminder for the event had been removed.

Late on Monday, Viya's accounts on Weibo, Taobao Live, and short-video platform Douyin went offline.

The State Taxation Administration issued a notice in September, announcing measures to strengthen tax administration in the entertainment sector, including livestreamers.

The office said anyone who reports and corrects tax-related misdoings would be given lighter punishment or even exempt from punishment. More than 1,000 people had taken the initiative to pay tax arrears, according to state media. 

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