China censors news of China-born director Chloe Zhao winning big at Oscars

Zhao has been accused of talking bad about China in old interviews.

Belmont Lay | April 26, 2021, 03:36 PM

China appears to be censoring news of the big Oscar wins by Beijing-born director Chloe Zhao.

Mentions of Zhao are scrubbed from Weibo -- Chinese social media -- on Monday, April 26.

News outlets have characterised the reason for the censorship as a nationalist backlash aimed at airbrushing out Zhao's remarkable achievement of becoming the first woman of colour to win the best director Oscar.

Oscar wins

The 39-year-old on Sunday night became the second woman ever to win the coveted award.

Her film Nomadland, about marginalised Americans roaming the west, won best picture.

The film's lead, Frances McDormand, won best actress

No mention of Zhao on Weibo

But all recent posts containing her name and Nomadland are being wiped from Weibo by Monday noon Beijing time.

Chinese media did not mention her win at all.

Fell foul

Zhao was initially hailed by state media for her film's success at the Golden Globes in March 2021.

But she became the target of a nationalist backlash after old interviews dug up by social media users apparently showed she had criticised her country of birth.

Chinese cinemas pulled the film's scheduled release abruptly.

Zhao appeared to acknowledge brush with Chinese state

Zhao's Oscar acceptance speech appeared to make a reference to these difficulties.

She said: "I've been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard".

Weibo initially flooded with social media posts praising Zhao on Monday morning.

The director had also quoted the line, "people are fundamentally good at birth", from a classical Chinese poem, which was met with approval by many Chinese social media users.

But the posts were later deleted.

"China's public opinion control is outrageous. After Chloe Zhao's starling Oscars win, there is not even a fart on Weibo," an outraged user wrote.

Chinese public still know of win

But it appears it is not a complete media blackout in China.

Word of Zhao's win has filtered down and some members of the public is aware of her historic achievement.

AFP reported that pride in an Asian director reaching the apogee of U.S. cinema was easy to find on Beijing's streets.

"She's the pride of Chinese people... it's very rare for a Chinese to get an Oscar award," Yan Ying, a female engineer, told AFP on Monday morning.

Zhao is also well-known in China as the stepdaughter of famous actress Song Dandan.

Top photo via Getty