China Blacklists Billionaire Actress, Cracks Down On ‘Unruly’ Internet Fan Culture
While Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments at Jackson Hole dominated headlines in the US Friday, news out of China detailed new efforts by Beijing to hinder domestic firms from going public in the US and other foreign markets, while also exposing the target of Beijing’s latest crackdown: entertainers and the online communities where their most rabid fans bond over their fandome.
According to the SCMP, Beijing abruptly blacklisted one of China’s most popular (and wealthiest) actresses, Zhao Wei. Her entire internet presence was scrubbed for unknown reasons on Thursday evening. Her name was removed from all television series, films, short videos and promotional materials from platforms including Tencent Video, iQiyi and Youku.
Per SCMP, Zhao shot to fame for her role in My Fair Princess, one of the most successful Chinese television shows of all time. It ran from 1998 to 1999.
Weibo’s equivalent of a hashtag – called a Chaohua – was also censored to bar information about Zhao.
So far, there has been no official explanation as to why Beijing targeted Zhao, though the move has sparked online speculation about possible motives..
Besides acting, Zhao is a businesswoman, film director and pop singer – this versatility is the true source of her massive wealth, and she’s known as one of China’s wealthiest entertainers and one of the only billionaire actors.
Outside of show business, the actress became an early investor in Alibaba Pictures. Her husband partnered with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, in a 2015 private equity deal.
At times, her loyalty to Beijing has been questioned, like in 2016, when a film she directed called “No Other Love” was attacked for inviting Taiwanese actor Leon Dai to be a leading character. Chinese Internet users accused Dai of being an advocate of Taiwanese independence. Zhao was ultimately pressured to change him.
Zhao isn’t the only actress to be targeted by Beijing lately: Chinese actress Zheng Shuang, who was embroiled in a tax evasion scandal earlier this year, was ordered to pay $46.1MM in unpaid taxes, overdue fees and fines this week. It ends an investigation into her finances that reportedly began this spring. Several male Chinese celebrities have also been accused of rape in recent months.
In addition to this censorship, the CCP has issued a new directive attempting to rein in an increasingly unruly fan culture that has created a permissive atmosphere where extreme stalking, leaking of personal information and cyberbullying have become increasingly commonplace. The new regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly delete verbal attacks directed at fans of different pop stars. The restrictions aim to maintain “political and ideological safety in the cyberspace as well as creating a ‘clean’ Internet.”