Ma Ling, a Chinese actress known for her nearly four-decade career, received an official warning after posting information online about her exorbitant power bill.
The actress, who lives in Beijing, had found an extreme increase in her electricity bill this summer, and was so panicked that she posted images of the bill on social media site Weibo, prompting heated discussion among Chinese netizens.
The images, posted on Oct. 23, show that her power bill for July had inexplicably shot up to 130,000 yuan (about US$20,300) from the normal rate of less than 1,000 yuan a month. Her attempts to resolve the issue with the electricity provider failed, driving her to go public with the issue.
“Is this fraud? Extortion? Or what?” Ma Ling said in her Weibo post.
She also posted her electricity bill for the same period in the past years. The bill for July 2019 was 503.59 yuan, and had risen to RMB 988.72 for the same month in 2020. However, the electricity bill for July 2021 had risen to RMB 135,570.16. An hour later, despite no increase in her power usage, the bill continued to rise, reaching 152,468 yuan.
It wasn’t long before the actress received warning from China’s internet censors, who demanded she remove the comments if she wanted to resolve the matter of her bills. “I couldn’t sleep for three days in a row; I don’t feel safe at all,” she wrote in a separate post.
Ma Ling is known for her acting in various television shows and movies, perhaps most famously in a 1983 adaption of the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West.
It’s unclear if the spike in her power bill was caused by an error, or if it is connected with the energy price hikes and power cuts affecting most of China, including the capital Beijing. Recent increases in the price of coal have left much of the country without stable power, with northern populations at particular risk as they rely on robust heating to get through the winter.