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Chloé Zhao’s historic sweep at the Oscars censored in China

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Chloé Zhao’s history-making sweep at the Oscars was almost entirely censored in her China amid accusations that she previously insulted her homeland.

The New York University graduate on Sunday became the first woman of color to win best director, while her “Nomadland” is only the second film directed by a woman to take home honors for best picture.

Yet her groundbreaking night was ignored and censored in her homeland as she remained embroiled in a backlash over a recently unearthed 2013 interview in which she said there were “lies everywhere” in China.

State media remained silent about the 39-year-old Beijing-born director’s Oscars success as of Monday afternoon, with no mention of her win by either CCTV and Xinhua, the two main state-run outlets.

A post announcing Zhao’s directing win by film magazine Watch Movies, which has over 14 million followers on Weibo, was censored a few hours after it appeared Monday morning. 

Chloé Zhao accepts the Directing award for 'Nomadland' onstage during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Chloé Zhao accepts the Directing award for ‘Nomadland’ onstage during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Todd Wawrychuk/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

The hashtag “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was also censored on the platform, with users getting an error message saying, “according to relevant laws and regulations and policies, the page is not found.”

Multiple discussion threads about Zhao’s win were deleted on the app as well. A news article on WeChat, the largest messaging app in the country, was also yanked.

The hashtag “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director" was censored on the Chinese social media app Weibo.
The hashtag “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was censored on the Chinese social media app Weibo.
Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Hong Kong TV audiences were also unable to watch in real time because free-to-air broadcaster TVB declined to air the Academy Awards for the first time in more than 50 years. 

In Shanghai, a planned livestream of the awards show hosted by Zhao’s alma mater New York University failed after access to a virtual private network service was blocked for nearly two hours.

“They cut the VPN,” event organizer Kevin Ke said, adding his WeChat account was shut down after he wrote a post praising Zhao.

It also appears to be damaging her celebrated movie, which was slated for an April 23 release in China but did not open.

The backlash against Zhao started in March when she won a Golden Globe for best director, and people latched on to critical comments she made about her childhood in China.

“There are lies everywhere,” she told “Filmmaker” magazine in 2013. “You felt like you were never going to be able to get out.”

Others also questioned if she could really be called Chinese, having moved to London for boarding school at 14, then high school in Los Angeles and college in the Big Apple, before settling back in California.

During her time at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Zhao counted Spike Lee among her professors, she told USA Today, calling it “always a great time.”

Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey celebrate the Best Picture win -- which Chinese media largely censored.
Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey celebrate the Best Picture win — which Chinese media largely censored.
Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

It is also where she met her partner, “Nomadland” cinematographer Joshua James Richards, who also worked on her next movie, Marvel’s “Eternals.”

Zhao did not address the backlash in her acceptance speeches, which were apolitical and instead evoked fond memories of her childhood in China.

“People at birth are entirely good,” she said. “Even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true, but I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met everywhere I went in the world.”

With Post wires

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