SHANGHAI• When actress Fan Bingbing was not seen in public for several months last year, rumours swirled over her fate.
Then, she was being probed for tax evasion and talk had it that she had either been arrested or fled to the United States.
She has since reappeared, taking calculated steps to repair her image after the authorities ordered her in October to pay $177 million in overdue taxes and fines.
But the rumour machine is now back at full throttle again, this time over her love life.
Fiance Li Chen, 40, who had stood by her during her dark days, and Fan, 37, revealed on June 27 on Weibo they were going their separate ways after four years of dating.
But many netizens are not buying that, calling it fake news and a ploy to stir up publicity.
Their doubts have been further raised after Chinese media noted that the couple were spotted dining in a Thai restaurant just three days after the break-up announcement.
The on.cc portal reported that the couple walked to their cars after the meal and seemed reluctant to say goodbye to each other.
This came on top of news the duo had not looked despondent when they were spotted in public on June 29.
Fan happily acceded to requests for wefies at a play-reading event while actor-host Li was seen taking a sprightly stroll on the streets.
Other fans noted that the couple were also in South Korea just two days before the June 27 revelation.
Some fans are counting on a reconciliation, heartened by what Fan wrote on June 27: "In one's lifetime, there are always a lot of partings and goodbyes."
Li himself posted that the "trust and support we give each other will be forever".
The fans are also encouraged by Fan herself shutting down rumours she split up with Li because she was pregnant with another man's baby.
In a light-hearted exchange with her stylist friend Christopher Bu, she texted: "Have I gained so much weight that people think I'm pregnant?"