Celebrity Culture Clean Up Campaign Targets Stars and Fans

One of China’s most famous actresses has been summarily wiped off the internet as part of a celebrity “clean-up” campaign. Zhao Wei, who starred in the hugely popular TV drama “My Fair Princess,” became a billionaire by investing in Alibaba and was the face of Italian high-fashion brand Fendi in China, digitally disappeared overnight without explanation. Its erasure happened in the middle of China’s Cyberspace Administration “Special Operation” Against Celebrity Cult, which both targeted celebrity bad behavior and imposed new, tight controls on fan interaction with “idols”:

In June, the office of the Central Commission for Cyberspace Affairs announced a special two-month operation targeting the fan club culture, known as fan quan, which it says negatively affects children’s mental health.

[…] The 10-point list “to rectify the chaos in the fan community” also included an order to “strictly regulate” celebrity managers and companies that run fan pages and other online activities that “drive fans. to intimidate “, as well as previously reported bans. on fundraising activities and children’s participation. […] In June, the commission said children were being pressured into contributing to celebrity fundraising or voting in competitive programs, that verbal abuse, online bullying, harassment and doxing took place, and that people were encouraged to show off their wealth and extravagance. He also said that public opinion is being hampered by bots or social media trends that have been hijacked to improve celebrity profiles. [Source]

The new regulations have banned the publication of celebrity popularity ranking lists and warned that newsgroups that funnel crowds online will be closed. Fan groups are being targeted in part because of their role in the Kris Wu rape case. Fan groups have rallied to his defense, attacking his accusers and demanding that the Marks maintain their relationship with him. In response, the CAC “deleted 1,300 fan groups, deactivated 4,000 online accounts and deleted over 150,000” toxic “remarks. At the New York Times, Alexandra Stevenson, Amy Chang Chien and Cao Li reported on the effort to tackle “fan culture”, which he says poses a threat to young minds and social harmony:

Chinese video sites quickly aligned with the government’s crackdown. Popular video platform iQiyi canceled its idol talent show this week, a move its chief executive said was “to draw a clear line on unhealthy trends in the industry.” Earlier this year, the show came under criticism after fans from various competitors bought milk from sponsor Mengniu Dairy to earn more points for their idols, then dumped large amounts of it into the show. sewers.

[…] The decision to clean up unruly fan clubs and discipline celebrities is the latest example of the increasingly assertive role the Chinese Communist Party led by authoritarian leader Xi Jinping wants to play in regulating culture. Xi said in 2014 that art and culture should be put at the service of the people, and in the years that followed, the entertainment industry has become an ideological battleground, whether in the censorship of themes deemed pernicious or in control of celebrity influence. […] The crackdown on fan clubs is a reversal of Beijing’s view of the industry just a year ago. State media praised fan culture for promoting spontaneous ‘positive energy’, citing a fan club in 2019 that was created around a fictional character who came to defend Beijing’s policies at protests in Hong Kong. [Source]

The push for control has spread to other already tightly regulated cultural spheres. In October, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will publish a blacklist of karaoke songs that “endanger national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity; violate China’s religious policies and spread cults and superstitions; and advocate obscenity, gambling, violence, and drug-related or incitement to crime. Hong Kong will begin censoring films – and even criticizing old films for their subversive content – “to protect national security.”

It is not known why Zhao Wei was censored. Two prevalent theories, both unconfirmed: its ties to actors and directors blacklisted for their ties to Japan and Taiwan and its business relationship with Alibaba. Zhao signed Zhang Zhehan, an actor recently blacklisted and censored for taking a photo at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine, to his company last year. She also chose Leon Dai, a Taiwanese director vilified by Chinese ultra-nationalists, as the protagonist of a film she directed. At the South China Morning Post, Mandy Zuo reported speculation that Zhao had trouble scrutinizing his views on geopolitics:

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. [Source]

Others believe the cause may lie in Zhao’s ties to Alibaba. The company and some of its affiliates have been in hot water: In mid-August, the Party’s anti-corruption agency announced an investigation into Hangzhou Party Secretary Zhou Jianyong (it was once believed that he was a member of Xi’s “New Zhejiang Army” faction while asking executives to conduct self-examinations on their business ties, strongly implying that Alibaba had undue influence in the city. Bloomberg News reported Zhao’s relationship with Alibaba and other business relationships:

Zhao, who served on a jury at the Venice International Film Festival and owns a wine chateau in Bordeaux, also built a fortune through investments, including an early stake in the Alibaba Pictures group. Her husband Huang Youlong joined forces in 2015 with e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as part of a private equity agreement.

In 2018, Zhao and her husband were banned by the Shanghai Stock Exchange from acting as senior executives for listed companies for five years due to irregularities related to a failed takeover bid in 2016. . [Source]

Other celebrities have also been targeted. Actress Zheng Shuang, who earlier this year was embroiled in a surrogacy controversy and subsequently targeted in a hushed up tax investigation, was fined $ 46 million for tax evasion. The staggering fine pales in comparison to actress Fan Bingbing’s $ 130 million fine for similar charges in 2018. The two used “yin-yang contracts” to fraudulently claim lower income for tax purposes. The Global Times called Zheng Shuang’s tax penalty consistent with Xi Jinping’s efforts for “common prosperity.”

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