Chinese actor Li Yifeng detained in prostitution scandal; major global brands are cutting ties

Several high-end brands like Prada, Sensodyne, RemyMartin and Luk Fook Jewelry have severed their contractual ties with the actor who played Chairman Mao in the movie The Pioneer last year.

Italian luxury brand Prada said it had ended all partnership with Li, who was announced as its official ambassador in 2021

Chinese actor Li Yifeng, who played Mao Zedong in the 2021 blockbuster the pioneer, was arrested by Beijing police and charged with soliciting prostitutes, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday. In a statement on social media, Beijing police said a 35-year-old male actor surnamed Li was arrested recently.

“The person confessed to visiting prostitutes on several occasions and was placed in administrative detention,” the statement said.

Although the police statement did not identify Li by his full name, CCTV confirmed that the actor was arrested without giving further details. However, according to a Weibo post from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, the 35-year-old admitted to the crime.

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Global brands cut ties

Following the controversy, several high-end local and international brands such as Prada, Sensodyne, RemyMartin, Panerai, Luk Fook Jewelry and a dozen other brands have severed their contractual ties with the actor.

Italian luxury brand Prada said on Sunday evening that it had ended all partnership with Li, who was announced as its official ambassador in 2021 and is also known as Evan Li.

According to a report by China Dailythe organizing committee of the Huading Awards announced that it had revoked the acting titles of “Best Actor in Top 100 Chinese TV Dramas” and “Domestic Audience’s Favorite Movie Star”.

Soliciting prostitution is illegal under Chinese law and usually leads to administrative detention for 10 to 15 days. It could be reduced to five days or less if the offense is minor.

Li was originally scheduled to perform at CCTV’s annual Mid-Autumn Festival Gala, which aired nationwide on Saturday.

Li was previously recognized by authorities for playing the role of Mao Zedong in “The Pioneer”, a patriotic film released in 2021 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. He has also appeared in several promotional videos for government agencies, including the Ministry of State Security and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

He is also the only Chinese star to receive South Korea’s Style Icon award, emulating the likes of K-pop’s G-Dragon and K-drama actor Song Joong-ki.

With more than 60 million followers on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo, Li was involved in boycotting Hugo Boss AG over its promise not to use cotton produced in Xinjiang because he feared that not be made with forced labor by Uyghurs from the Muslim minority.

Crackdown on the entertainment industry

The charges are the latest in a string of scandals, from tax evasion to alleged sexual assault, in China’s entertainment industry since the start of 2021. Some of these cases have involved vice offenses like prostitution, like the American venture capitalist and Weibo opinion maker. Charles Xue, who disappeared in 2013 and was released after state television aired a taped statement in which he admitted to hiring prostitutes.

Various industry players have been accused of “severely polluting the social atmosphere” and Beijing’s cultural authority last year ordered the industry to ban performances by any performer who allegedly broke the law or violated ” ethical values”.

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China has ordered sweeping actions to clean up the entertainment industry, with the broadcast regulator banning movie stars with an “incorrect” policy, capping salaries and curbing celebrity fan culture. Star pianist Li Yundi was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in October 2021 as part of the wider industry crackdown. He has not been seen in public since.

While prostitution is banned in mainland China, the sex work industry continues to thrive in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing with over 10 million women believed to be actively engaged in the profession.

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