China censors Oscars success of history-making Chloe Zhao
On Monday, Beijing-born Chloe Zhao's impressive achievement of becoming the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Director was erased from Chinese social media due to a nationalist backlash.
Zhao became just the second woman to win the best picture and best actress at the Oscars on Sunday night, when her film "Nomadland," about marginalized Americans wandering the west, won the best picture and Frances McDormand won best actress.
However, by Monday noon Beijing time, all recent posts containing her name and the phrase "Nomadland" had mysteriously vanished from the Twitter-like platform Weibo.
The Chinese media have remained silent in the aftermath of her victory.
Zhao, who was initially praised by state media for her film's Golden Globe win in March, became the victim of a nationalist backlash after social media users unearthed years-old interviews in which she appeared to criticize her homeland.
The film's planned release in China was unexpectedly canceled.
The Oscars were also not shown on Chinese television or streaming services this year.
In her Oscar acceptance speech, Zhao seemed to allude to these difficulties, saying, "I've been thinking a lot lately about how I keep going when things get rough."
Before the posts were removed, she also quoted a line from a Classical Chinese poem that translates to "people are inherently good at birth," a gesture that was applauded by many Chinese social media users.
On Monday morning, Weibo was filled with posts praising Zhao, while others decried censorship.
"Chloe Zhao becomes the first Asian diaspora/Chinese female filmmaker to win the best director Oscar in history," wrote an entertainment blogger with over 8.9 million followers in a post that received thousands of likes before being removed.
"China's censorship of public opinion is outrageous. There hasn't been a fart on Weibo since Chloe Zhao's Oscar victory "screamed an enraged consumer.
Despite the censors' efforts, pride in an Asian director hitting the pinnacle of American cinema was easy to find on the streets of Beijing.
On Monday morning, Yan Ying, a female engineer, told AFP, "She's the pride of Chinese people... it's very unusual for a Chinese to win an Oscar award."
"I think Chinese movies will get better and better and she will set a very good example for Chinese mainland directors," said 38-year-old legal worker Yuan Min.
Zhao is also well-known in China as the stepdaughter of Song Dandan, a well-known actress.