Actor Li Yifeng canceled for soliciting prostitutes

More than a dozen brands cut ties with the actor, who will have to lose a foutune to pay for the damage.

Li Yifeng at a Panerai event held in Nanning on August 9. Photo from CFP

Li Yifeng at a Panerai event held in Nanning on August 9. Photo from CFP

By LU Yicai


Actor LI Yifeng has been dropped by at least a dozen brands after he was arrested and charged with soliciting prostitutes. The topic has been on top of Weibo’s trending list since the weekend. State media published commentaries on Monday condemning the offense itself and runaway celebrity worship.

Rumors arose on Saturday when Li was removed from this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on national broadcaster CCTV. Li’s studio put out a statement, denying the gossip and Li reposted it, adding that this should “put an end to all the lies.” The next day, Beijing Public Security Department said Li was in detention for repeatedly soliciting prostitutes, and that he had admitted to the alleged offense. 

Since Sunday, at least a dozen brands including Prada and Rémy Martin issued statements terminating their sponsorships. AnoBudweiser and L'Oréal deleted all their past social media posts with Li’s image. Job bulletin Liepin clarified that its partnership with Li had ended in July and was not renewed. 

Huading, an entertainment award, revoked Li’s “Best TV Actor” and “Audience’s Favorite Actor” titles given in 2017. According to Huading’s charter, awards are canceled if the winners are convicted of crimes or severe moral offenses. The last celebrity who suffered the same fate was ZHENG Shuang, who allegedly abandoned her children born through surrogacy.

Li Yifeng’s first TV appearance was on a variety show in 2007. He remained a minor celebrity until 2014 when he was cast as the main character in the fantasy drama series Swords of Legends. High-profile roles followed, including one in the 2015 blockbuster Mr. Six which won him Best Supporting Actor at Hundred Flowers, China’s most important film award. He also won two China TV Golden Eagle Awards in 2016 for a role in a spy thriller. 

From 2013 to 2019, Li was with H&R Century Pictures (H&R). It was his most productive period, but he was involved in a fraud case when an H&R subsidiary embezzled 18 million yuan through loans to Li Yifeng. 

The H&R contract expired in March 2019 and since then he has appeared in “main melody” productions, which promote national pride. Li now owns four film and television studios.

A 51-episode main melody series starring Li was canceled by CCTV on Monday when there were six episodes still unplayed. A movie adapted from an infamous murder case starring Li has wrapped up shooting and was scheduled to hit the big screen next year, with his scandal, the fate of the movie hangs in limbo.