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Chloé Zhao's historic wins at the Oscars were silenced on Chinese social media. Users bypassed the censors using alternate names for her and her film 'Nomadland.'

Apr 27, 2021, 06:55 IST
Insider
Chloe Zhao attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images
  • Social media users in China are still celebrating Chloé Zhao's Oscar wins despite government censors.
  • The Chinese government took down posts in apparent backlash to Zhao's previous criticisms about the country.
  • In 2013, Zhao was quoted in Filmmaker magazine describing China as "a place where there are lies everywhere."

People in China found ways to celebrate Chloé Zhao's historic wins at the 2021 Oscars despite the Chinese government silencing her name on social media.

Zhao, who was born in Beijing and lived there until she was 14, became the first woman of color and second woman ever to win best director at the Oscars on Sunday, and her film "Nomadland" took home best picture at the award show.

However, the victory went largely silent on Chinese social media platforms, including the Chinese social media site Weibo and Chinese film app Douban, in an apparent backlash to her past comments about China, The New York Times reported.

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"I had to take a screenshot, flip it upside down, translate it and change the phonetics just to post a winners list. People worked on posts all morning and they won't go out," one film blogger wrote, according to a report by Variety. "It's not embarrassing if you don't win a prize; it's only embarrassing if you win the prize and can't celebrate it."

"The whole world is celebrating; only we are busy hiding the film's name," one user on Douban wrote, Variety reported.

When searching for hashtags related to Zhao or the film, it would result in the following message: "According to the relevant laws, regulations, and policies, the page is not found," according to The Times. Following Zhao's win at the Golden Globes in March, the same message would appear in the search results, the Associated Press reported.

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But despite Zhao's victories being silenced in China, social media users bypassed censors on Chinese social media by using alternate names for Zhao, calling her "daughter of the clouds" or simply "that girl." When referring to "Nomadland," which roughly translates to "unreliable land" in Chinese, NBC News reported, some social media users called the film "reliable sky."

In a 2013 interview for Filmmaker magazine, the Chinese director described China as "a place where there are lies everywhere." The quote is now deleted from the interview but an archived version of the article still has the quote.

In December last year, Zhao told Australian news website news.com.au that "the US is now my country," but the news site issued a correction on March 3, saying it misquoted Zhao and that the article "has been updated to reflect she said (the US is) 'not' her country."

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"Instead of celebrating Chloé Zhao's wins at the Oscar and making the Chinese public feeling proud, Beijing is busy censoring her - all for a criticism she made in 2013," Li Yuan, a tech columnist for The New York Times Asia, tweeted. "For as long as I've been writing about Chinese censorship and propaganda, I still can't wrap my mind around it."

One Weibo user praised Zhao's acceptance speech after she referenced a line from the classic Chinese text, the "Three Character Classics," about people being "inherently good" at birth.

"Chloe Zhao is great, walking on the red carpet in sneakers, and reciting a line from the Three Character Classic," one user wrote, citing the NBC News report. "That's the wisdom of a literari. Some words can be erased, but these can not."

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