The Curious Case of Zheng Shuang: From Stardom to Legal Battles

The Curious Case of Zheng Shuang

Once hailed as the next big thing in the world of Chinese entertainment, Zheng Shuang’s journey took an unexpected turn in 2021. Apart from her tax evasion scandal, she faced allegations of surrogacy and child abandonment from her ex-boyfriend. This led to her being officially labeled as a tainted artist. Surprisingly, Zheng Shuang recently made headlines on Weibo, with a focus on a court judgment document filed by a production company. It turns out, that the victorious party in this lawsuit was the production company behind the TV drama “Jade Lovers,” in which Zheng Shuang starred alongside Lee Jong-suk. This revelation stirred a storm of support for Zheng Shuang, with many accusing the production company of “grabbing at straws.”

Back in 2016, after Zheng Shuang found herself embroiled in controversy, the TV drama she was starring in faced disruptions and couldn’t be aired. The drama was produced by Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd. They sought compensation from Zheng Shuang, and the court ruled that she had to return the service fee of CNY 30.5 million (approximately NT$130 million) she had received as her acting fee. Additionally, Zheng Shuang was required to compensate Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd. for their financial losses amounting to CNY 60 million (about NT$260 million). Zheng Shuang’s appeal against this ruling was rejected, making the judgment legally binding.

The court judgment mentioned a contract signed between the production company and Zheng Shuang. It stipulated that she would be paid CNY 30.5 million for her services, covering 70 actual working days between February 15, 2016, and May 10, 2016, which equates to an average daily wage of around CNY 430,000. However, after Zheng Shuang’s career downfall, the TV drama’s release seemed bleak, leading to this compensation claim.

Surprisingly, some netizens rallied behind Zheng Shuang upon learning that Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd. was the production company behind “Jade Lovers.” The drama had been completed in 2016 but faced delays in airing due to the ban on South Korean entertainment content. They believed that assigning all blame to Zheng Shuang and demanding the return of CNY 30.5 million in acting fees was unjust, labeling Zheng Shuang as a scapegoat.

Despite the initial judgment in December 2021, Zheng Shuang filed an appeal. However, the second verdict, issued on July 8, 2023, upheld the original judgment, requiring Zheng Shuang to refund the CNY 30.5 million acting fee and pay CNY 60 million in compensation.

In the wake of controversies such as “surrogacy and child abandonment” and tax evasion, actress Zheng Shuang found herself entangled in a legal battle with Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd., which sought compensation. According to reports, the People’s Court of Songjiang District in Shanghai released the verdict for this typical case. Zheng Shuang was ordered to refund CNY 30.5 million (in Chinese yuan) as service fees, plus interest, and compensate with an additional CNY 60 million.

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In January 2016, Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd., as the first party, signed a “Planning Service Contract” with the second party, Shanghai Zheng Shuang Film and Television Culture Studio. The contract stipulated that the planning service period would run from February 15, 2016, to 70 actual effective working days within May 10, 2016. The first party agreed to pay the second party a total planning service fee of CNY 30.5 million in installments.

On January 13, 2016, Haining signed a “Supplementary Contract” with Zheng Shuang’s studio, inviting her to participate in the production of the TV drama in question as the female lead. The production work was scheduled to start on February 15, 2016, and continue for 70 actual effective working days until May 10, 2016.

The contract explicitly stated that if the artist’s involvement in illegal activities or misconduct led to a ban imposed by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China, affecting the production and release of the drama, the first party had the right to terminate the contract. In such cases, the second party was obligated to refund the remuneration received and compensate for the actual economic losses incurred by the first party up to that point.

Between January 18, 2016, and April 25, 2016, Haining made multiple payments totaling CNY 30.5 million to Zheng Shuang’s studio as fees for the TV drama’s services. On February 5, 2016, Haining also signed a “Television Drama Copyright License and Use Agreement” with a certain television station, permitting them to use the TV series and its copyrights. The station’s subsidiary became one of the drama’s investors, with a 5% stake, and the total licensing fee amounted to CNY 77 million. If Haining breached the contract, they would not only have to refund the entire licensing fee but also pay a penalty equal to 100% of the agreed licensing fee.

A “Special Audit Report” dated March 15, 2021, indicated that the TV drama project in question had received investments totaling over CNY 183 million from five investors. As of December 2020, the project had incurred expenses totaling CNY 174 million, with over CNY 121 million attributed to actors’ services. All expenses had been covered by signed contracts and had been actually paid.

However, despite the completion of the TV drama production, it had not yet obtained a release permit when Zheng Shuang faced allegations of illegal surrogacy and tax evasion, leading to her “ban.”

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Haining argued that Zheng Shuang, as a well-known public figure, had caused extensive and severe social impact with her misconduct. According to relevant notices from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, TV dramas featuring Zheng Shuang as a key creative contributor could no longer be aired. Zheng Shuang’s studio was deregistered in 2017, and the debts accrued during its existence were the responsibility of investor Zheng Shuang. Therefore, they filed a lawsuit with the Songjiang Court, seeking the termination of the contract, the return of CNY 30.5 million in service fees with interest, and compensation for CNY 60 million in economic losses. The first-instance verdict, issued on December 16, 2021, required Zheng Shuang to refund the requested amount to Haining and compensate for economic losses.

Zheng Shuang contended that the contract had already been terminated due to the completion and the deregistration of Shanghai Zheng Shuang Film and Television Culture Studio. Furthermore, the TV drama’s failure to air was not her fault, and she refuted being labeled as a “tainted artist.” She believed that Haining had no right to claim her breach of contract based on erroneous facts created by “media judgment,” thus disagreeing with all of the plaintiff’s claims.

Zheng Shuang proceeded to appeal the decision, but on July 18, 2023, the Shanghai First Intermediate People’s Court upheld the original judgment. As per risk information, Zheng Shuang and her two studios had already been subjected to compulsory enforcement of approximately CNY 128 million due to this case.

Amidst the fallout from controversies like “surrogacy and child abandonment” and tax evasion, mainland Chinese actress Zheng Shuang faced a sweeping ban that inflicted heavy losses on the drama’s investment partners. Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd. took her to court, and a Shanghai court ruled in favor of the production company. Zheng Shuang was ordered to refund CNY 30.5 million in service fees, plus interest, and compensate with an additional CNY 60 million (approximately HKD 65.05 million).

In summary, Zheng Shuang’s film and television studio signed a contract with Haining D Film and Television Investment Co., Ltd. in 2016, specifying that the studio would provide planning, execution, content creation, brand planning, and actor selection services for a TV drama produced by Haining. In return, Haining was to pay Zheng Shuang CNY 30.5 million as compensation. The contract stipulated that either party would be held liable for breach of terms, including if the artist’s involvement in illegal activities or misconduct led to an official ban. Zheng Shuang found herself embroiled in a legal battle after controversies erupted, and the court ruled that she should repay the service fees and compensate for economic losses.

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