Chinese acting star Li Yifeng detained for ‘soliciting prostitutes’

·2-min read

Acting star Li Yifeng was detained by police in Beijing on Sunday for allegedly soliciting prostitutes, an act banned in mainland China.

In a statement on Chinese social media site Weibo, the Beijing police announced the detention of a 35-year-old man surnamed Li. The actor's identity was later confirmed by the state-run TV station CCTV.

Police said the actor "confessed to visiting prostitutes multiple times" and was detained under criminal charges of soliciting prostitution.

While prostitution is outlawed in mainland China, the sex work industry continues to thrive in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, with nearly 10 million women actively engaged in the profession.

Soliciting sex in China can lead to administrative detention of up to 15 days and a fine up to £645.

Mr Li, who played the role of Mao Zedong in The Pioneer released in 2021, is one of the most popular actors in the country with over 36 million followers on Weibo. He was previously expected to attend the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on CCTV on Saturday night, but his name was later taken off the programme.

The actor’s studio issued a statement, claiming that the “comments about Li Yifeng’s personal life on the internet are untrue and have been maliciously fabricated to spread rumours by people with ulterior motives”, Global Times reported.

Amid the allegations, Mr Li took to social media to clarify that the rumours not only caused emotional damage to him, but also affected all his ongoing businesses.

“I hope Li Yifeng will live on in his film and television work, will live responsibly and will also live in the social responsibility of today’s youth, instead of living among lawsuits and fighting against malicious rumours,” he wrote on Weibo.

However, his post was reportedly deleted from the social media platform.

Following his detention, at least 11 brands, including Italian luxury brand Prada, terminated their partnerships with Mr Li.

He walked for Prada for its fall 2022 repeat show in Beijing last month after being announced as their brand ambassador in 2021.

Mr Li has starred in a plethora of Chinese shows and won the best actor at the China TV Golden Eagle Award in 2018 for his role in the period drama Sparrow.

The organisers of the Huading Awards announced on Sunday that it has removed Mr Li’s titles of “Best Actor in China’s Top 100 TV Dramas” and “The National Audience’s Favorite Movie Star” that he won in 2017.