Who Is Viya? Chinese 'Livestreaming Queen' Faces $210 Million Tax Evasion Fine

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 21, 2021 06:39 PM +05:30 IST
Who Is Viya? Chinese 'Livestreaming Queen' Faces $210 Million Tax Evasion FineHuang Wei, known as Viya
Snapshot
  • Chinese internet celebrity Viya was punished for concealing personal income and other offences in 2019 and 2020.

    In June this year, after being accused of pushing counterfeit products, Viya was fined 530,000 yuan for breaking advertisement laws.

    Now, China has levied $210 million penalties on her for tax evasion, as per reports.

China levied a 1.34 billion yuan or $210 million tax evasion penalties on a top livestreamer, Viya, who has grown immensely popular in recent years, ratcheting up President Xi Jinping's crackdown on influential personalities.

As reported, according to the tax department in Hangzhou, a city in southern China, internet celebrity Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was punished for concealing personal income and other offences in 2019 and 2020. It stated that during that period she avoided paying 643 million yuan in taxes by concealing personal income and filing the false declaration.

Because of the explosive expansion of online shopping in China, Viya has become a famous internet celebrity and has more than 110 million followers on social media.

The 36-year-old has a reputation for being able to sell anything on the Taobao Live platform via livestreaming. She offered a rocket launch service for 40 million yuan last year and sold products for 8.5 billion yuan in one evening at the important shopping event known as Singles' Day, according to media reports.

Before her streaming accounts—Weibo, Taobao Live, and short-video platform Douyin— went offline on 20 December evening, Viya was supposed to host a cosmetics sales event. Because of her massive platform, she was nominated to Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people in 2021.

According to reports, the tax department in Hangzhou suspected Viya of evading taxes based on data analysis and she failed to correct the problem despite numerous reminders.

However, Viya—also called China’s "livestreaming queen"—apologised via a Weibo post where she said: “I'm deeply sorry about my violations of the tax laws and regulations. I thoroughly accept the punishment made by the tax authorities."

Separately, in June this year, after being accused of pushing counterfeit products, Viya was fined 530,000 yuan for breaking advertisement laws.

Viya is the most recent celebrity livestreamer to be targeted in a comprehensive crackdown that began with tech monopolies and has since expanded to include private education, social media platforms, and celebrity culture.

The penalty is the most severe yet for internet sellers like Viya, who compete every night to persuade customers to spend millions of dollars on things like cosmetics, appliances and clothing. The influencer is one of the most well-known figures on Alibaba's Taobao marketplace, attracting traffic and encouraging purchases.

The latest episode foreshadows as part of Xi Jinping's shared prosperity campaign, Beijing is focusing on the internet streaming commerce field. The high-profile case might frighten merchants and brands who rely on the format to boost sales, not just on Alibaba's platform but also on those of its competitors.

However, the authorities announced harsher regulations for celebrities and livestreamers in September. Two influential livestreamers, Zhu Chenhui and Lin Shanshan, were fined a total of 93.2 million yuan ($14.6 million) for income tax evasion last month. Now, their Taobao and Weibo pages both are blank.

Livestreaming is a hybrid of a variety show, infomercial and group chat that originated in China and has gained in popularity since the Covid-19 outbreak. According to the research firm iiMedia, livestreaming sales in China are likely to reach 1.2 trillion yuan this year, up from just 19 billion yuan in 2017.

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