BEIJING - China’s authorities say they are capping the pay of actors as part of a move to crack down on tax evasion and “money worship” in the industry.

Actors in Chinese films and TV programmes will have their pay capped at 40% of total production costs. Meanwhile, lead actors cannot be paid more than 70% of total cast pay, the government says. It comes after a debate on celebrity pay, and allegations of tax evasion in the film industry. The official announcement comes from a joint statement (in Chinese) from five government agencies, including the propaganda department, ministry of culture and tourism, and radio, TV and film regulators late on Wednesday. It does not specify why the government is cracking down on celebrity pay now - but says it is needed to deal with “sky-high pay” for actors, “yin and yang contracts” and “tax evasion and other issues”. These problems have “damaged the health of the film and TV industry”, and led to “money worship”, “the youth blindly chasing celebrities” and “distorted social values”, the notice added, without giving details about how the pay cap would be enforced. The move is probably linked to a controversy over celebrity tax evasion that began last month. In May, TV presenter Cui Yongyuan posted what he said was a contract that Fan Bingbing - one of China’s most famous actresses - had signed, worth $1.6m (£1.2m).

He followed this up with a second social media post that alleged that many celebrities signed two contracts - known as “yin and yang contracts” - and only reported the lower-value contract to the authorities, as a way to evade taxes.

Many social media users assumed he was referring to Fan Bingbing.

Fan’s studio has denied any wrongdoing, and warned Mr Cui he could face legal action for publishing Fan’s contract and implying that she had been involved in tax evasion.

Earlier in June, China’s tax authorities began an investigation into “the tax evasion issue by certain film and TV professionals as alleged in online discussions”.