Chinese actor detained in prostitute scandal, several brands cut ties

Global brands including luxury fashion house Prada SpA and healthcare company Haleon Plc have severed ties with star Chinese actor and singer Li Yifeng, who has been arrested for prostitution as the government continues its crackdown on the entertainment industry.

Li, 35, was arrested by Beijing police for “repeatedly soliciting prostitution” and allegedly confessed to the allegation, according to a post on Weibo by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and a report by the State-run CCTV.

His detention was followed by a series of international and Chinese companies announcing that they had ended all commercial relations with the actor, including Prada, where he was a brand ambassador. Sensodyne, a toothpaste unit of British company Haleon, and Zhenguoli, a beverage brand of dairy giant China Mengniu Dairy Co., also severed ties with Li.

Chinese authorities often tout confessions by defendants in high-profile cases, which the US, UK and other human rights advocates have long cited as evidence of coercion or torture. Some of those cases involved crimes like prostitution, like American venture capitalist and Weibo opinion maker Charles Xue, who disappeared in 2013 and was released after state TV aired a recorded statement in which he admitted to hiring prostitutes.

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 crackdown on the sector. He has not been seen in public since.

Li Yifeng has already been 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.

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.

This story was published from a news feed with no text edits. Only the title has been changed.

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