Leading actresses Zhao Wei and Zheng Shuang are the latest victims of the Chinese government’s ongoing crackdown on the entertainment industry and the excesses of celebrity fan culture.
On Thursday, all entries related to Zhao on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo were removed, her name was scrubbed from the credits of films and TV shows, and all content featuring her — including film, TV, chat show appearances and more — was removed from major streaming sites like Tencent Video and iQiyi.
All discussion of Zhao on social media was also censored.
Zhao, who is also known as Vicky or Vicki Zhao and notably starred in My Fair Princess, Shaolin Soccer and Lost in Hong Kong, is a popular star turned billionaire investor and is the face of Italian fashion house Fendi in China.
Chinese state newspaper The Global Times reported that no official reason had been given for the moves to erase Zhao’s presence and work from the internet, but it did resurface historical allegations of financial impropriety and a number of other scandals. Most notably, in 2018, the Shanghai Stock Exchange banned Zhao and her husband, Huang Youlong, from acting as listed company executives for five years due to issues and irregularities related to a failed takeover bid in 2016.
Close friends of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Zhao and her husband were early investors in Alibaba Pictures Group, buying a $400 million stake in 2015. Once China’s highest-profile billionaire, Ma’s star has dimmed after spectacularly falling out of favor with Beijing.
The downfall of Zhao comes a few weeks after a professional and business acquaintance of hers, the actor Zhang Zhehan was similarly banned and scrubbed from the internet after pictures surfaced of him at Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine to war dead.
On Friday, tax authorities in Shanghai fined actress Zheng Shuang $46.1 million for tax evasion.
Zheng, the star of the hit series Meteor Shower and a popular celebrity, was fined for failing to report income between 2019 and 2020 while filming a TV series.
The AFP reported that China’s state broadcasting regulator, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, reiterated it had a “zero tolerance” policy on tax evasion. The regulator pulled the show in question from streaming sites and asked production companies to not work with Zheng in the future.