This week, Beijing-born Chloe Zhao made history after becoming the first Asian woman to win the award for best director at the Academy Awards. She is only the second woman in history to win this award. However, her own native country censored the news of her win by censoring the reports of the Chinese state-run media.
Zhao was awarded the Oscars for her movie ‘Nomadland’, a movie portraying marginalised workers in the American West. Zhao though Beijing born moved to Britain and the United States to study. The director fell into the swirl of nationalism and attacks that claim that she betrayed her own motherland.
As much as a proud moment it would have been for any country, her enthusiasm or victory was not well celebrated by the Chinese media. There are claims that comments and articles about Zhao or her win were slowly deleted while deliberate searches regarding her name and Oscars 2021 showed her name.
According to a report by Reuters, the alumni of Zhao’s alma mater live-streamed the Oscars 2021 in Shanghai but were soon subjected to Chinese censorship. The organisers reported that their virtual private network (VPN) services had also been blocked for nearly two hours.
Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website. It is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. Users of the platform noted that Zhao’s win and related topics were hampered in terms of ranking.
Users expressed their anger and frustration regarding the same. The news did not appear among the most searched topics. There have been previous claims of the website manipulating this content. A few of the reports suggest that her victory was used as a not-so-subtle point to assert geographical priorities by China.
Video clips of Zhao holding her trophy and any form of posts regarding her acceptance speech were also removed from the discussion forum Douban. However, the citizens could post about her win on WeChat, some articles were restricted. Several users tried posting articles about her win and more but were not able to. This included movie reviewers, film critics, movie buff or anyone.
Coverage regarding her win was limited. National agencies owned by the Chinese Government too did not report her victory. The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not air the Academy Awards for the first time since 2003.
The cause for this anger stems from an old interview of Zhao from 2013 where she described China as a country where there were “lies everywhere.”
Prior to the discovery of this video clip, Zhao was praised by the Chinese state media and her film was scheduled to be released within the country on April 23rd but after the video interview started surfacing, the praise-filled articles were slowly removed and her movie was also not released on the scheduled date. However, her fans did speak on her behalf and in defence of the 39-year-old director.
Her acceptance speech had a lot of references to her birthplace, China. She mentioned quite some of her memories from China. She even quoted a line in Mandarin saying: “People at birth are inherently good.”