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China Goes Dark On Chloé Zhao’s Historic Oscar Victory

China’s major news organisations have remained silent on Chloé Zhao’s historic Oscar victory, while SBS Chinese’s news posts on Beijing-controlled social media platforms have been deleted.

The Chinese director became the first woman of colour to win the Academy Award for Best Director, while her film ‘Nomadland’ won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

However, while the Chinese-born trailblazer’s victory was widely celebrated internationally, state media in the homeland remained silent, with neither CCTV nor Xinhua – the two main state-run news organisations – reporting on her victory, reportedly due to a ban imposed by the Chinese Communist Party’s Publicity Department.

TVB, the Hong Kong broadcaster that has carried the Oscars every year since 1969, announced it would not carry the ceremony this year due to “commercial considerations.”

Additionally, items posted to Beijing-controlled platforms WeChat and Weibo were removed, including a news story and video reporting Zhao’s victory posted by SBS Chinese.

Zhao was born in Beijing in 1982 and did not leave the country until she was 16 years old and moved to the United Kingdom as an international high school student.

She began her film career in the United States after graduating from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Zhao’s nationality sparked an outpouring of criticism from Chinese netizens a month ago, who cited an interview she gave in 2013 in which she appeared to be critical of her birth country.

To add to the confusion, the Chinese-run Global Times outlet tweeted a message congratulating Zhao on her Oscar win, which was met with numerous comments asking why the news was blocked on other social media platforms.

The film was scheduled for release in China on April 23, but rumours of censorship began to circulate on March 3, when the tags “#nomadland” and “#nomadland release date” were abruptly blocked on Weibo, and the film’s promotional materials vanished.

Although it is unknown whether the film will be withdrawn from the country, given the current state of affairs, Chinese mainland audiences will have to wait.

According to the Global Times, the controversy dates all the way back to a 2013 interview Zhao gave to Filmmaker Magazine in which she stated, “it dates all the way back to when I was a teenager in China, growing up in a place where lies are everywhere.”

In 2020, she was misquoted in an interview with News.com.au, where she was reported to have stated, “The United States of America is now my country.”

The site later clarified that Zhao had actually stated that “the United States of America is not my country.”

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  • Chloe Zhao: GETTY IMAGES
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