Chinese actor Evan Li detained on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes

The 35-year-old actor launched his career after taking part in a national television song contest in 2007. PHOTO: EVAN LI/INSTAGRAM

BEIJING - Chinese actor Li Yifeng, who played former Communist Party leader Mao Zedong in a 2021 movie, was detained recently by Beijing police on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes, China's state broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday.

CCTV said it was citing a Beijing police statement on the agency's Weibo social media account on Sunday that it recently detained an actor with the surname Li for multiple instances of soliciting prostitutes. CCTV said it confirmed the person is Li Yifeng.

The 35-year-old actor, who is also known as Evan Li, launched his career after taking part in a national television song contest in 2007 and later moved into acting.

Li could not be reached through his Weibo account for comment and efforts to contact him through his studio's WeChat account were not successful.

Global and local brands including luxury fashion house Prada, watchmaker Panerai and French cognac maker Remy Martin issued statements on Sunday saying they had dropped Li as their brand ambassador following the scandal.

Only last month, he was on the catwalk in Beijing showcasing Prada’s fall 2022 collection.

Other brands to cut ties with the actor included Haleon-owned toothpaste brand Sensodyne and Mengniu-owned milk drink Zhenguoli, according to their social media posts.

Li last year appeared in a public service announcement video to promote national security.

Beijing has been targeting Chinese celebrities over any alleged misbehaviour, concerned by their growing influence, especially over minors, and to curtail what the government calls the potential for social disorder.

A spate of scandals in recent months have taken down China’s biggest entertainers including singer Kris Wu, who was arrested on suspicion of rape last August.

Actress Zheng Shuang was hit with a US$46 million (S$64 million) tax evasion fine last year.

In September last year, officials ordered broadcasters to shun performers with “incorrect political positions”, and to cultivate a patriotic atmosphere.

“We solemnly call on the vast number of TV art workers to regard morality and art as their life’s homework,” the China Television Artists Association said in a statement on Monday.

“No matter what achievements you have made...if you don’t keep yourself clean...the so-called fame will disappear, and the so-called future will be ruined,” it warned.

REUTERS, AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.