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China Arts & Entertainment

Why Zhao Wei? Vicky Zhao’s Name Removed from China’s Online Channels

Recent developments involving Chinese top actress Vicky Zhao (Zhao Wei) are part of a bigger crackdown on China’s entertainment industry.

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Another earthquake in China’s entertainment circles! This time, the name and works of one of the country’s most notable actresses, Zhao Wei (赵薇, aka Vicky Zhao) are removed from Chinese online channels.

“Sorry, no related videos found.” Searching for Zhao Wei’s name (赵薇/Vicky Zhao) on Chinese video platforms Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku comes up with zero results as of August 26 of 2021.

Zhao Wei’s sudden disappearance from the top websites to watch Chinese TV dramas has sent shockwaves over social media, where Zhao is among the top Chinese celebrities. On Weibo alone, the actress has over 85.6 million followers.

No more Vicky Zhao on Youku.

Zhao Wei (1976) is a Chinese film star, singer, entrepreneur, and director. Together with actresses Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Zhou Xun (周迅) and Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾), she belongs to China’s ‘Four Dan Actresses’ (四大花旦, the four greatest actresses of mainland China) from the early 2000s.

She starred in the highly successful Chinese costume television show My Fair Princess (还珠格格) which first aired in 1998, after which she went on to star in many TV series and big films, including Painted Skin (2008) and Lost in Hong Kong (2015).

Besides being a known ambassador for good causes, Zhao is also known for her work as a brand ambassador for various international companies, which has added to her wealth. She was named the world’s wealthiest working actress by Forbes in 2015. Zhao is married to the Chinese businessman Huang Youlong (黄有龙), with whom she has a daughter. The couple made it to a list of the world’s wealthiest young billionaires in 2016.

This week, Zhao’s name was deleted from the cast lists of various films and dramas she starred in or directed. A super-topic (fan group) dedicated to her was removed from Weibo, and now various productions involving Zhao have seemingly been removed altogether.

Zhao Wei is no longer listed as a member of the cast.

Zhao Wei reportedly also withdrew as a shareholder from several companies she was involved in.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Zhao Wei Withdraws from Companies” (#赵薇接连退出多家公司#) received over 240 million views on Friday. Another related topic, namely “Zhao Wei’s Super Topic Shut Down” (#赵薇超话被封#) received over 970 million views. Many people want to know why the actress has become the target of official scrutiny.

Chinese state media platform Global Times also wrote about how Zhao Wei’s name and works were removed from several video platforms. These online companies reportedly confirmed the removal of Zhao’s works, saying they received the request at a short notice and without a clear reason.

Among the potential reasons mentioned for Zhao’s name being censored is that it is somehow linked to the scandal involving the fallen Hangzhou Party chief Zhou Jiangyong (周江勇), who is currently being investigated by China’s top anti-graft agency. Zhao and Zhou share a social circle, including Jack Ma, an ally of Zhou and a friend of Zhao and her husband, who are major shareholders of Alibaba Pictures.

Another issue mentioned is that of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚) who recently came under fire for attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and taking pictures at Yasukuni, a shrine that is seen as representing Japanese militarism and aggression. Zhang – who is now basically banned from China’s entertainment industry – was signed under Zhao Wei’s company. Zhao herself also got caught up in history-related controversy as early as 2001, when she posed for a photo shoot wearing a dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag.

Throughout the years, Zhao has been caught up in various controversies. Back in 2016, it was rumored that the actress had financially backed Hillary Clinton when she was still running for president of the United States.

Vicky Zhao and Hilary Clinton.

But the actual reasons why Zhao is being banned from China’s online channels are still unclear. As of Friday night, Beijing time, Zhao’s Weibo page was still up. Her last social media post is from August 15, when the actress commemorated the 76th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Meanwhile, some of Zhao’s celebrity friends, including Huang Xiaoming and Yang Zi, have deleted photos they took together with Zhao Wei from their social media channels.

The developments involving Zhao come at a time when various Chinese celebrities are under scrutiny. What’s on Weibo recently reported the scandal involving Kris Wu and the calls for ‘raising the bar’ for celebrities in China. Online fan clubs (or fan circles 饭圈) have also become a target of online censors, with thousands of posts and accounts removed from Chinese social media earlier in August of 2021.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽), whose ‘surrogacy scandal’ caused a social media storm in January of this year, also became a trending topic once again. On Friday, authorities stated that she would be fined 299 million yuan ($46.1 million) for tax evasion and undeclared income between 2019 and 2020. The actress published a public apology in which she stated she would pay for all taxes and fines.

Meanwhile, many people are glued to their social media screens. Around seven o’clock at Friday night, Beijing time, the Weibo topic “What’s up with Zhao Wei?” (#赵薇怎么了#) had already been viewed over a billion times.

Some commenters think that Zhao Wei is simply caught up in this storm because she was involved in so many controversies throughout the years and that the recent crackdown on China’s celebrity and fan circles is just the right timing for authorities to take finally take measures.

“This goes beyond being canceled,” others wrote: “There is something bigger going on, we will just have to wait for an announcement to come out.”

Read more: 25 ‘Tainted Celebrities’: What Happens When Chinese Entertainers Get Canceled?

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Arts & Entertainment

CAPA Controversy Continued: Li Xuezheng Won’t Be Silenced

Despite being censored and threatened, Li Xuezheng believes the force of law is with him.

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It has been a stormy week on Weibo following the ‘warning list’ issued by China’s Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) on Tuesday, November 23rd.

It was the ninth time since 2018 for CAPA’s livestreaming branch to issue a list of names of people with a ‘bad record.’ Different from previous lists, its most recent list also included the names of Chinese celebrities who are not necessarily active within the livestreaming industry but should be barred from entering the industry based on their track records.

One of these names is that of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚), whose online photos from him visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Japan in 2018 were one of the major reasons for him to get into trouble in the summer of 2021.

This is one of the photos that Zhang Zhehan posted of himself, posing at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, that got him into trouble.

Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine is a particularly sensitive location when it comes to memories of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The shrine is dedicated to the Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the emperor, including those who committed war crimes in China. It is generally seen as a symbol of Japanese military aggression and as a painful reminder of the numerous atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China and other Asian countries.

Despite apologizing for his supposed lack of historical understanding of the places where he took photos, Zhang saw his career shattered when his social media account was suspended and his brand partnerships were canceled.

Following the inclusion of Zhang’s name on the recent CAPA blacklist, famous producer/distributor/actor Li Xuezheng (李学政), director of the Golden Shield Film and Television Center, started posting about the issue on his Weibo account, where he now has over 1.1 million followers.

On November 25th, What’s on Weibo reported how Li criticized the blacklist of CAPA, questioning the criteria of the names that are included and how an association or business entity such as CAPA would have the legal power to enforce disciplinary measures over Chinese celebrities beyond the realm of their own association membership circles.

When Li Xuezheng stated he would be willing to help Zhang Zhehan file a lawsuit against CAPA, he received nearly 100,000 likes on his post within 24 hours.

Li Xuezheng in one of his videos posted on Weibo.

Since Li Xuezheng first posted about the ‘warning list’ of China’s Association of Performing Arts, he published at least twenty posts from November 23 to November 26, including a few videos. His posts have been gaining more traction, and some have received over 140,000 likes within a day.

Li’s main stance is that, although he says he supports the general initiative of making blacklists, he wants to know how, why, and if CAPA has the legal authority to ban Chinese celebrities from the industry. Li stresses that China is a law-based society and that these kinds of punitive measures should have a legal basis.

Since Li has worked in anti-corruption-related positions before, he says it is very important to know who oversees the process of compiling celebrity blacklists and which methods are used. Since China’s livestreaming industry and the commercial activities of celebrities are of great economic value, people would do anything they can to be removed from such a list. When these kinds of power dynamics play a role, Li argues, the risk of corruption is always there – which is why it is all the more important to know who compiles these kinds of lists and which legal authority they have.

Li argues that China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism have the authority to ‘blacklist’ people in the industry. But when people such as Zhang Zhehan are not listed anywhere according to these authorities, it should be questioned why they are still included in lists such as the one issued by CAPA. Going by law is one of the main principles Li stands by.

Although there are also people criticizing Li, saying he is “saving bad performers” to gain clout, there are many who praise him for his courage and perseverance, reiterating the necessity for Chinese organizations to abide by the law. Others are just following the trend for entertainment, writing: “I’m enjoying the spectacle of this, there’s the CAPA, there’s capital, money laundering, platforms, hiding the truth from the masses…”

Zhang Zhehan still has a loyal group of fans, who support Li in raising awareness for what they believe is the wrongful punishment of their idol.

What is also noteworthy about Li’s posts, is how he refuses to be silenced by outside forces. When Weibo censors his posts, he makes it public by posting screenshots. When he is told by people claiming to have authority to delete his Weibo accounts, he reports back to his readers about what has happened to him.

Although there are many Weibo users who worry about Li’s safety for speaking out about these matters, Li himself does not seem to be anxious at all. “I am legally responsible for every word I publish,” Li writes on November 25th, arguing that nothing he posts is illegal and that he only tries to adhere to the ruling standards and to keep China’s online (entertainment) industry healthy by questioning those claiming to have authority.

One of the points raised by Li is that Zhang Zhehan has never really done anything illegal. By visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, he surely caused a social media storm and was criticized, but he did not do anything illegal and did not spread rumors. If visiting Yasukuni Shrine in itself would be a crime, Li argues, many Chinese media reporters would surely need to be punished as well.

By now, Li has started a storm that does not seem to be lying down any time soon. On November 26, the official site of the China Association of Performing Arts removed its list of leaders from its official site. As of now, it is unclear why this has been done.

At the same time, Li writes that there are more people trying to threaten and smear him. Li still says he will not be silenced: “The great power of justice is surrounding us.”

To read more on this issue, check out our other related articles here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Li Xuezheng Defies Online Celebrity ‘Blacklist,’ Says He’ll Help Zhang Zhehan File Lawsuit

China’s Association of Performing Arts has issued a blacklist, but Li Xuezheng questions their legal authority to do so.

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As an important voice within the industry, Li Xuezheng has spoken out against the recent blacklist of Chinese (online) performers issued by the China Association of Performing Arts. Li is willing to help one of the prominent names on the list, Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan, to file a lawsuit against the Association.

Li Xuezheng (李学政), Vice Chairman of the China TV Artists Association and Director of the Golden Shield Television Center, has published a video that has caught the attention of many on Weibo. In his video, Li questions the authority of China’s Association of Performing Arts (CAPA/中国演出行业协会), which released a black list of online celebrities earlier this week.

The list went trending on Weibo and contains 88 names of internet personalities who have been reported and registered for their supposedly bad behavior. The people on the list have either violated the law or their actions have allegedly negatively impacted society and public order (more about the list here).

The consequences for the people included in the list are potentially huge, since it not only bans livestreamers from continuing their work but also prohibits performers who were previously ‘canceled’ from entering China’s livestreaming industry to generate an income there. Through the list, CAPA gives an overview of people that should be boycotted and disciplined in the industry.

One of the people on the list is Zhang Zhehan, an actor who got caught up in a Chinese social media storm in August of 2021 over attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and taking pictures at Yasukuni, a shrine that is seen as representing Japanese militarism and aggression.

Zhang Zhehan got into trouble for posting photos of himself at Japanese shrines deemed historically controversial.

Although Zhang apologized, Zhang’s account and an affiliated work account were suspended by Weibo and the brand partnerships he was involved in were canceled.

Chinese celebrities who have fallen out of favor with authorities or audiences will sometimes turn to livestreaming. Singer Li Daimo (李代沫), for example, became a livestreamer after his successful singing career ended due to a drugs scandal. But now, even such an alternative career would no longer be possible for someone like Zhang, although he was never legally convicted for anything.

News of CAPA’s blacklist was widely published, also by People’s Daily, and the measures were presented as a way to tidy up the chaotic online entertainment industry and to create a “healthy and positive” internet environment.

In his video and other recent posts, Li Xuezheng wonders how the so-called ‘warning list’ was compiled, according to which criteria, by whom it was created, and whether or not the CAPA actually has the legal power to shut people out of China’s live streaming industry.

He also raises the issue that CAPA’s live streaming branch, that issued the blacklist, is actually a business entity; so how does it have the legal disciplinary powers to impose sanctions against Chinese online influencers and performers?

Li Xuezheng in his video.

Li’s video, posted on his Weibo account on November 24, has received over 90,000 likes and was shared over 8500 times at the time of writing.

“What I don’t understand,” one popular comment says: “- are these online influencers [on the list] all members of the Association? Can the Association also punish non-members? Does the authority of the Association cover all media? On what legal basis is their regulatory conduct based?”

The China Association of Performing Arts, founded in 1988, is a national-level organization that falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China. It is a non-profit organization formed by performance operators and performers, according to its official website, which also states that members of the association include performance groups, performance venues and companies, ticketing companies, and more.

Since Li’s video was posted on November 24th, he received a lot of support from Chinese netizens but also faced some online censorship. Li himself posted screenshots showing that not all of his posts could be published.

It is noteworthy for someone like Li to speak out against CAPA’s blacklist. Li Xuezheng is a familiar face within the industry. Born in Shandong Province in 1965, Li has worked in China’s film and TV industry for a long time and has since built an impressive resume as a producer, supervisor, actor, and distributor. He has over a million followers on his Weibo account (@李学政).

On November 25th, Li added another post to his series of posts on the CAPA issue, saying that although his initial goal was just to make sure that CAPA sticks to the rules, he is now also prepared to help Zhang Zhehan in filing a lawsuit against the Association, since Zhang did not violate any laws in order for him to be ‘canceled’ like this. “I believe in the justice of the law,” Li writes.

Although Li received a lot of support on social media, there are also those who worry about Li himself: “You first take care of yourself,” some say, with others warning him: “Teacher Li, if you go on like this, you will lose your [Weibo] account tomorrow.”

Others are moved by Li’s courage: “I almost feel like crying reading your words.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone with this kind of overwhelming righteousness.”

For now, Li seems to be unstoppable in his goal to get to the bottom of this case; he seems to be determined to raise awareness within the industry on who is legally allowed to set the rules and who is not.

One popular comment says: “Looking at Teacher Li, I see he is fighting corruption and advocating honesty. Besides listening to the public’s opinion, I just hope law-based society will rule according to law.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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