October 24, 2021

China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

By Wenxin Fan
15 September 2021

HONG KONG— Zhao Wei spent the past two decades as China’s equivalent of Reese Witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business mogul.

She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, 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 Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country’s biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series “My Fair Princess,” have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film “So Young” on China’s equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn’t know she was the director; the field now reads “——.”

Ms. Zhao’s online disappearance on Aug. 26 came at the onset of a broader clampdown on the country’s entertainment industry as the Communist Party attempts to halt what it sees as a rise in unhealthy celebrity culture. The Chinese government hasn’t publicly stated what prompted this sudden change to her status, raising questions among fans and observers about how far it is willing to go against her and other celebrities, and why.

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