Chinese billionaire actress Vicki Zhao Wei appears to have been blacklisted by the government, and her entire internet presence was shut down for unknown reasons Thursday night (August 26).
Zhao’s name has been removed from all TV series, movies, short videos, and promotional materials from platforms such as Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku.
The shows are still available, with his scenes remaining intact, but any description of his involvement has been removed. Zhao rose to fame for her role in My Fair Princess, one of the most successful Chinese TV shows of all time which ran from 1998 to 1999.
A hashtag that allowed Zhao fans to share information about her on Weibo, dubbed achaohua, was also censored.
So far, there has been no official explanation as to why it has become the target of such extensive censorship. The lack of information has sparked speculation online about the possible motivations.
Besides acting, Zhao is a businesswoman, director and pop singer, helping her become a billionaire and one of the richest artists in Chinese history.
The hottest topic on Weibo on Friday night was a page detailing the various business interests she had recently left.
In 2017, Zhao and her husband Huang Youlong were banned from Chinese stock markets for five years for irregularities discovered after their company failed in a takeover bid for an obscure animation company.
An agency owned by Zhao represented Zhang Zhehan, who was a promising actor until he was also blacklisted after an old selfie he took at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine in 2018 appeared online. The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese soldiers who died fighting for the country and is a particularly sensitive political point of contact in China.
Outside of business, Zhao sparked controversy in 2001 when she wore a dress that looked like the imperial flag of the rising sun of Japan during a fashion shoot in New York City.
Her political position was again called into question in 2016 when a film she directed, No Other Love, came under attack for inviting Taiwanese actor Leon Dai to be a main character. Chinese netizens viewed Dai as a defender of Taiwan’s independence. Zhao was eventually forced to change it.
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China sees Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reintegrated into the motherland, by force if necessary.
Zhao’s disappearance from Chinese cyberspace came amid a widespread campaign by authorities to crack down on “celebrities who misbehave.”
The government is simultaneously trying to curb the unruly fan culture that has resulted in extreme criminal harassment, personal information leaks and cyberbullying.
On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration, China’s central Internet watchdog, released a detailed list of measures to rectify problems among fan communities.
The directive said local authorities should monitor celebrity culture online to maintain “political and ideological security in cyberspace as well as to create a clean internet.”
The new rules include the cancellation of all forms of celebrity rankings and the strengthening of oversight of celebrity marketing agencies. They would also require that all online fan communities be licensed by the agencies associated with the celebrity.
The regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly suppress verbal attacks among fans of different idols.
Other celebrities who have recently clashed with Chinese authorities include Zheng Shuang, who is fined US $ 46.1 million (S $ 62.1 million) for tax evasion, announced Friday.
Singer Huo Zun was accused by his ex-girlfriend of cheating and bragging about his relationships earlier this month. He denied the allegations but also quit show business.
Several women accused Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu of rape and he was charged with rape on August 16.
Another male celebrity, Hunan TV presenter Qian Feng, was charged with rape after the Wu case. Qian denied the allegations but resigned from Hunan TV on Friday.
READ ALSO: Vicki Zhao’s Husband Buys $ 28 Million Penthouse in Singapore
This article first appeared in South China Morning Post.