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DJ China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased from the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why – Sharecast.com

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hong kong – zhao wei spent the last two decades as the chinese equivalent of reese witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business tycoon.

Directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer, and built up a massive social media following, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site. she also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies.

today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the internet in china. searches for her name on the nation’s largest video streaming sites return no results. her projects, including the popular television series “my fair princess”, have been eliminated. anyone looking up her acclaimed movie “so young” on the Chinese equivalent of wikipedia will not know that she is the director; the field now says “–“.

mrs. zhao online disappearance in august. the 26th came at the start of a broader crackdown on the country’s entertainment industry, as the communist party tries to stem what it sees as a rise in unhealthy celebrity culture. The Chinese government has not publicly stated what prompted this sudden change in her status, raising questions among fans and observers about how far it is willing to go against her and other celebrities, and why.

The mystery has also sparked open speculation about what, if anything, he might have done wrong.

“zhao wei is kind of an example of what the communist party sees as what’s wrong with celebrity culture in china,” said stanley rosen, a professor at the university of southern california who specializes in movies and Chinese politics. “It’s a demonstration that no one, no matter how rich or popular, is too big to chase,” he said.

In the case of Zhao Wei, he added, the lack of explanation “will certainly make other celebrities extremely cautious and proactive in embracing the regime’s goals.”

a new outpouring of public interest in mrs. Zhao’s state erupted on Wednesday after photos and videos surfaced purporting to show the star, casually dressed in shorts and a purple T-shirt, visiting a telecommunications services branch the day before in her hometown of Wuhu, in east china. The Wall Street Journal was unable to verify the authenticity of the images, which were widely shared by fans on Chinese social media.

mrs. zhao did not respond to requests for comment. Her movies and TV shows were still missing from streaming video sites as of Wednesday afternoon. China’s Cyberspace Administration, the country’s internet regulator, did not respond to a query.

In recent weeks, other celebrities have also been eliminated, including zheng shuang, an actress caught up in a tax evasion investigation, and zhang zhehan, a young actor who was previously criticized by the communist party’s flagship newspaper after It was discovered that he had visited a controversial shrine in Japan related to World War II while attending a friend’s wedding.

In an unprecedented campaign launched last month, the party banned the ranking of celebrities by name on social media platforms, ordered traditional broadcasters and streaming platforms to ban artists who do not meet standards political or moral and effectively barred the children of pop stars from appearing on entertainment shows.

mrs. Zhao has not publicly addressed his deletion online. on Aug. On February 29, after rumors spread on Chinese social media that she had fled to France on a private plane, she posted a message on Instagram saying that he was in Beijing with his parents. the message was deleted in a matter of hours.

speculation about mrs. Zhao’s situation has set Chinese social media on fire. one group noted their connection to mr. Zhang, the banned young actor, who is represented by an agency owned by him. nationalists among online speculators celebrated his demise.

“The power to uproot such a tall target truly belongs to our nation,” said a movie blogger with a nickname that translates to raw wild nuts with roasted corn. She said in a post that she spent many of the last few weeks verbally arguing with fans of Mr. zhang and mrs. zhao and report them to the national security agency.

after weibo removed ms. zhao’s fan page when other platforms censored his name, his fans posted messages of support on their own microblogs and on his brother’s weibo page, urging the family to sue the attackers for defamation .

Comments often defended the star while refraining from challenging the inexplicable decision to ban her.

“The state knows your political position better than any netizen,” wrote a supporter called Tough Pea Shoot, who presented a list of prominent government events. zhao was invited to. China’s soft power representative in 2013, President Xi Jinping introduced her to then South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a state banquet.

to many, mrs. Zhao’s deletion recalls the 2018 disappearance of a megastar bingbing fan amid a tax evasion scandal. em. Fan, who appeared in 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” disappeared from public view for three months before appearing to apologize and pay a $70 million fine.

mrs. Zhao is, in many ways, a bigger figure than Ms. fan. She started her career in 1998 playing a Qing dynasty queen in the smash hit “My Fair Princess”. Over the years, she cemented her star status by expanding into more roles and putting out hit pop records. In the late 2000s, she married developer Huang Youlong. she also became a major player in the business world, making investments with her husband in film and technology that in 2015 boosted her combined assets to hundreds of millions of dollars. dollars

mrs. zhao has also sparked controversy. in 2001, she apologized after Chinese media criticized her for appearing in a fashion magazine wearing a dress displaying a wartime Japanese flag. In 2016, she removed a Taiwanese actor from a movie she was directing after Chinese netizens accused him of advocating Taiwan’s independence.

the following year, mrs. China’s securities regulator banned Zhao and her husband from trading mainland stocks for five years for allegedly misleading investors. em. Zhao said at the time that she did nothing wrong. Mr. Huang said that she never intentionally tried to obtain wealth through illegal or immoral means.

Following its disappearance online, a wide range of state media republished an essay written by a former newspaper editor amplifying the idea that the tide is moving against celebrities, including mrs. zhao, were part of a larger effort by mr. xi to rein in the rich and address the country’s huge wealth gap.

the essay echoed earlier speculation by linking to ms. Zhao to Jack Ma, the larger-than-life founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. who has been a central figure in mr. xi’s campaign aimed at the technology sector. he noted that the two had mixed with a well-connected spiritual guru.

much of mrs. Zhao’s wealth came from a stake she and her husband bought in Alibaba’s entertainment arm. separately, between 2016 and 2020, she bought shares in one of yunfeng capital’s funds, backed by mr. ma, along with several wealthy Chinese businessmen, according to the china company registry database.

the inscriptions also state that a director in ms. Zhao’s companies, named after his mother, had acquired a stake in Ant Group, a fintech giant founded by Mr. ma who was on track for a record breaking IPO that was canceled at mr. Orders from xi last year.

alibaba, ant and mr. ma he did not respond to requests for comment.

a fan of mrs. Zhao’s, an official in his 20s who was willing to give only the surname zhang, said he believed her past deserved no more punishment than most other celebrities and was happy to see photos of her circulating on Wednesday. .

“If you can walk around freely, you probably won’t have any big problems,” he said. As for the erasures, he told her, “I’m still waiting for an explanation.”

write to wenxin fan at [email protected]

(end) dow jones newswires

September 15, 2021 13:11 ET (17:11 GMT)

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