One of China’s most popular film stars, Zhao Wei, appeared to be the latest target of an internet take down, as Beijing ramps up its crackdown on the entertainment industry and fan culture.
On streaming sites, such as Tencent Video, many major works of the 45-year-old actor no longer played Thursday evening, according to local newspaper China Business News, and her name had been scrubbed from the titles’ landing pages.
Zhao has served as a brand ambassador for the fashion house Fendi and the fan club for the actor on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo also became inaccessible as of Friday afternoon.
Also known as Vicki or Vicky, Zhao shot to fame in China in 1998 for starring in the TV series “My Fair Princess.” She also appeared in the epic war film “Red Cliff” and received critical accolades for her leading roles in feature films such as “Dearest” and her directing debut “So Young.”
The reason for the move wasn’t immediately clear. Zhao’s studio didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment Friday. The Chinese National Radio and Television Administration didn’t respond to a faxed question.
Chinese authorities have put the entertainment industry on notice in recent months, over what state media outlets have characterized as “improper fan activities.” The Chinese cyberspace regulator asked social media platforms Friday to remove all ranking lists of celebrities.
Zhao, who has served on a jury at the Venice International Film Festival and owns a wine chateau in Bordeaux, has also built a fortune through investments including an early stake in Alibaba Pictures Group. Her husband Huang Youlong in 2015 partnered with e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. on a private equity deal.
In 2018, Zhao and her husband were banned by the Shanghai Stock Exchange from acting as senior executives for any listed companies for five years due to irregularities related to a failed takeover bid in 2016.
With assistance by John Liu, and Jing Li
Top Chinese Actress Fined $46 Million For Tax Evasion
Top Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was hit with a $46 million tax evasion fine Friday while references to film star Zhao Wei were wiped from video streaming sites as Beijing steps up its campaign against celebrity culture.
Beijing is on a mission to rein in what it calls “chaotic fan culture” and celebrity excess, after a spate of scandals in recent months that have taken down China’s biggest entertainers including singer Kris Wu, who was arrested on suspicion of rape earlier this month.
Shanghai tax authorities on Friday fined Zheng 299 million yuan ($46.1 million) for tax evasion and undeclared income between 2019 and 2020 while filming a TV series, according to an online statement.
Zheng, 30, became a household name in China after starring in the hit 2009 remake of Taiwanese drama “Meteor Shower”, and a string of successful series and movies afterwards.
China’s state broadcasting regulator also pulled Zheng’s offending TV drama and ordered producers not to hire her for future shows.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television added it had “zero tolerance” for tax evasion, “sky-high pay” and “yin-yang contracts”, referring to the shady contracts commonly used in Chinese showbiz to obscure actors’ real pay.
State media has gone into overdrive urging changes to China’s entertainment culture.
“For some time now, artists’ moral failures and legal violations, the cultivation of younger idols, and ‘chaotic’ fandoms have attracted widespread attention in society,” state broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday.
“We must restore a clean and upright literary and artistic environment to the public.”
On Thursday evening, search results for Zhao, an enormously popular actress also known as Vicky Zhao, were censored from major Chinese video streaming sites.
Her name was suddenly removed from the credits of major TV series, while a forum dedicated to the actress on social media platform Weibo was also mysteriously shut down, as the hashtag “Zhao Wei super-topic closed” gained 850 million views.
No official reason was given.
But Zhao and her husband were banned from trading on the Shanghai Stock Exchange earlier this year, owing to a failed 2016 takeover bid that authorities ruled had “disrupted market order”.
China’s cyber regulator released new regulations Friday that ban celebrity ranking lists and tighten control over “chaotic” celebrity fan clubs and management agencies.
Video streaming site iQiyi said it halted all idol talent programmes Thursday, while a Chinese boy band made up of primary school children disbanded earlier this week after performers’ ages sparked a public backlash.