The news of Chloé Zhao’s Oscar win for Best Director has been censored on social media and search engines in China at the direction of the country’s propaganda ministry, The Wall Street Journal reported. Zhao, who was born in Beijing, is the first Chinese woman and first woman of color to take home the Academy Award for directing. Nomadland also won Best Picture at Sunday night’s awards ceremony, and the movie’s star, Frances McDormand, won Best Actress.
But according to the Journal, early messages congratulating Zhao had been scrubbed from Chinese social media sites by midday Monday, and searches on Chinese search engines Baidu and Sogou had few links to the Oscar news. There was no news about Zhao’s win on China Central Television, the Xinhua News Agency, or the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily on Monday, the Journal reported; according to a state media reporter, the country’s propaganda ministry told the outlets not to report the win due to “previous public opinion.”
The Global Times, a news site owned by People’s Daily, posted an op-ed late Monday acknowledging Zhao’s win but criticizing Nomadland as “typically American and far from the real life of the Chinese people.” Of Zhao, the Global Times wrote: “We hope she can become more and more mature. In an era when the China-US confrontation is intensifying, she can play a mediating role in the two societies and avoid being a friction point. She cannot escape her special label, and she should actively use it.”
Another of the few news stories that did surface in China about Zhao’s win came from small news site 163.com, which called Zhao the “second Chinese filmmaker to win the best director Oscar, after Ang Lee,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lee, who won Best Director twice, for Brokeback Mountain in 2006 and for Life of Pi in 2013, was born in Taiwan. China considers Taiwan to be part of China, a matter of some contention internationally.
It’s not the first time Nomadland and its director have been hidden by Chinese media; last month, The Associated Press reported that social media posts and other publicity about the movie were removed by China’s censors.
The reason for China’s erasure of Zhao’s win likely stems from her comments in Western media outlets. She said in a 2013 interview with Filmmaker magazine that China was a “place where there are lies everywhere,” a comment that was later removed from that article, according to the AP, but not before it drew considerable backlash in China.