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Award-winning filmmaker Zhao Wei disappears from Chinese internet for reasons unknown

Leading actress and director is latest victim of ongoing celebrity crackdown

Zhao Wei seen at a film festival. 

Zhao Wei seen at a film festival.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s billionaire film director and actress Zhao Wei (趙薇) has been scrubbed from the country’s internet by the government, for reasons that still remain a mystery.

Zhao’s name was removed from all television series, films, short videos, and promotional materials on platforms such as Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku, according to a South China Morning Post article published on Friday (Aug. 27).

The sudden censorship of Zhao, one of the most prominent women in Chinese cinema, has sparked speculation by the country’s netizens. By around 7 p.m. on Friday, the Weibo topic “What’s up with Zhao Wei?” (#赵薇怎么了#) had been viewed over a billion times, according to a What’s On Weibo report.

One theory being circulated is that Zhao is somehow linked to the scandal involving Zhou Jiangyong (周江勇), the fallen Hangzhou communist party chief, who is currently being investigated by China’s top anti-graft agency. Zhao and Zhou share a social circle that includes Jack Ma, an ally of Zhou and a friend of Zhao and her husband, who are major shareholders of Alibaba Pictures, according to What's On Weibo.

Another potential reason is that Zhao owned an agency that represented Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚) who recently got canceled from China’s entertainment industry after an old selfie he took at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine in 2018 emerged online.

The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese soldiers who died fighting for the country, as well as a number of war criminals, and is a particularly sensitive political touchpoint in China.

Zhao herself got caught up in World War 2 controversy back in 2001, when she posed for a photoshoot wearing a dress that featured a war-time Japanese naval flag, per What's On Weibo.

The developments involving Zhao come at a time when various Chinese celebrities are under scrutiny, including Chinese Canadian singer Kris Wu for his sexual abuse controversies, actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽) for her surrogacy scandal, and a broader crackdown on online fan circles (饭圈), which has seen thousands of posts and accounts removed this month alone.

Updated : 2022-05-25 18:22 GMT+08:00