Chloe Zhao’s historic Oscar victory should have coincided with Jubilee in China, her country of birth. Sunday night, she became First Chinese and Woman of Color To be nominated for Best Director for “Nomadland”, whichever Prize for best picture taken home.
Instead, the Chinese government imposed a virtual news blackout, and the censors moved to end or clear the discussion of the award on social media.
Chinese state-run news media outlets – who are usually eager to celebrate the recognition of their citizens on the global stage – made almost no mention – Oscar, Ms. Zhao alone. Chinese social media platforms raced to remove or limit the ceremony and circulation of articles and posts about Ms. Zhao, forcing many Internet users and fans to use homemon and wordplay to avoid censors.
No reason has been given for repression, although Ms. Zhao has recently been the target of a Nationalist backlash The comments he made about China in the past.
A writer Hung Huang in Beijing said that the latest signs of state news media blackout appeared Recent increase In tensions between the United States and China.
Ms. Hung said, “People should celebrate – both as American film directors, and for the fact that the Chinese won a very prestigious international award of their own.” “But the politics of the US-China relationship is filtering cultural and art circles, which is shameful.”
By midnight on Monday, the Communist Party-owned newspaper Global Times broke the silence to urge Ms. Zhao to play a “mediation role” between China and the United States and “avoid being a friction point”.
“We hope she can mature more and more,” the paper wrote An editorial It was published in English only.
Although some posts about Ms. Zhao’s success made it through the filter, for the most part, the censors made it clear that the subject is off limits. The search for a popular social media platform hashtag on Weibo “Chloe Zhao won the Oscar for Best Director” only returned the message: “According to relevant laws, rules and policies, the page has not been found.”
Disappointment was expressed over the attacks on Ms. Zhao in several posts removed on Weibo.
One user on Weibo wrote, “Once upon a time we should celebrate Chloe Zhao, who has talked about the influence of Chinese culture. Later disappeared.” I think the incident is not good at all. “
The controversy that Ms. Zhao raised last month focused on a 2013 comment made in an American film magazine in which she criticized China as a “place where lies are everywhere”.
Nationalist trolls participated in another, more recent interview, in which Ms. Zhao, who grew up partially in the United States and now lives there, was quoted as saying: “The US is now my country, eventually . ” (The Australian site interviewing her later said that it had misjudged Ms. Zhao, and that she had in fact said “I don’t want to.”
Following last month’s uproar, searches on social media for hashtags related to “nomadland” in Chinese were blocked, and Chinese-language promotional material also disappeared. Although the film, A. Sensitive picture of american american life, Scheduled for release in China last week, as of Monday, there were no screenings in theaters.
The Oscars also came under fire last month for the nomination of “Don’t Split”, a film about the protest protests for the shortest documentary in 2019 in Hong Kong. Global Times Then said the documentary “There is a lack of artistry and full of biased political stance.”
After a long time, reports surfaced that broadcasters in mainland China and Hong Kong would not hold an Oscar ceremony for the first time in decades. (One of them, TVB, a Hong Kong broadcaster, was the decision commercial.)
“Caught Split” lost to “Colette”, a film about a French resistance member who visits a concentration camp where his brother died. In an interview before the awards, its nomination alone helped raise awareness of China’s rift in Hong Kong, Anders Hammer, said in an interview.
“Ironically, this censorship and the actions taken in Beijing and Hong Kong have also paid more attention to our documentary and more attention to the core theme of our documentary, which is how basic democratic rights are disappearing in Hong Kong.” Kong, ”Mr. Hammer said.
Two employees of the Beijing-based news outlet noted the sensitivity of the issue, saying Chinese journalists working at state-controlled news outlets had been ordered weeks before to completely abstain from the awards ceremony.
On Monday afternoon, there was no mention of an Oscar in the entertainment section of the flagship People’s Daily website. Instead, the top stories included one report on rural tourism in China and another in Malta as the “World Tai Chi Day” event.
But Ms. Zhao’s fans were unaffected by censorship. On social media, he resorted to a strategy familiar to many Chinese Internet users: blurring Ms. Zhao and the film’s names, writing backward, changing pictures on their behalf, or adding slashes or exclamation marks between Chinese characters.
In her post, many praised Ms. Zhao’s acceptance speech, stating that she was “thinking a lot about how to keep going when I get tough.” For inspiration, she said she often saw a line of 13th-century classical text that she remembered as a child growing up in China: “People born are naturally good.”
This line resonated with many Chinese people who grew up memorizing those texts.
One user wrote, “It is very difficult to describe that when I heard him, I heard him say those six characters in the Beijing accent.” “It may not be my favorite classical phrase – I’d say I don’t really agree with it – but I cried at that moment.”
For many observers, censorship was a lost opportunity for the Chinese government, which has long sought to replicate Hollywood’s success in projecting American soft power around the world.
Raymond Zhou, an independent film critic based in Beijing, said, “The way he drew on his Chinese heritage in dealing with difficulties is inspiring.” “It is sad that he was collectively misunderstood due to a string of cross-cultural events.”
He refused to say more, given the political sensitivity of the issue, saying only that “his body of work speaks for itself.”
Austin Ramzi and Joey Dong contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu contributed to the research.