Celebrities in China are being canceled as the country makes moves to control celebrity fan culture, which has become “chaotic” according to regulators.
Last Friday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) issued two notices — one stated that the spreading of harmful information in celebrity fan groups will be punished; the other notice discussed the CAC’s plans to draft regulations for internet algorithms. The group intends to crack down on algorithms that encourage users to spend money in large amounts or in “a way that may disrupt public order.” The CAC’s draft regulations will be open for discussion until mid-September.
Internet companies are required to take action to make the creation of fake user accounts more difficult. They also need to make it easier for users to disable recommendation algorithms, which are frequently used by platforms like home shopping services, social media, news sites, and streaming platforms.
Celebrities have become a big target for the regulations, including prominent stars like Zhao Wei, Zhang Zhehan and Kris Wu.
Actor and singer Kris Wu was arrested after rape allegations, and his internet presence has been mostly wiped out as a consequence of the scandal.
Zhang Zhehan has also had a similar experience. Zhang is accused of offending China after posing for pictures at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. As a result of the accusations, Zhang’s films and TV shows have recently been taken down by broadcasters and streaming platforms.
Shaolin Soccer and Red Cliff star Zhao Wei is also being canceled. Several video platforms — including Tencent Video, iQiyi and Youku — are working to edit out the actress’ name from the popular 90s TV series My Fair Princess.
It’s unclear as to why Zhao is being canceled, though speculation is that it has something to do with ongoing investigations on Zhou Jiangyong, a senior official in Hangzhou. Zhao is also close with Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, who publicly criticized the country’s financial regulatory system. As a consequence, Ma has dealt with almost a whole year of attacks orchestrated by the state.
Meanwhile, Zheng Shuang, who has been punished for a tax scandal, is now being fined RMB299 million for unpaid income tax liabilities and excessive earnings. Having one of the highest-paid actresses in the world be brought down for a tax scandal is similar to the fall of Fan Bingbing in 2017.
Fan had $100 million fines, and it resulted in a film and TV production hiatus as companies scrambled to settle tax affairs, revise talents’ contracts and stop using domestic tax havens. China’s authorities have also stepped in to limit the pay packages for celebrities’ performances in TV series and gave exemplary punishments or threats of lifetime bans to stars who have been linked to drug use and prostitution.
It looks like China is quite serious about regulating its celebrities, with streaming platform iQiyi cancelling plans for talent contest shows, which are known for being potential platforms for scouting new talent and creating celebrities. These shows are “unhealthy,” according to iQiyi’s CEO Gong Yu.
These recent moves against China’s tech giants and celebrities seem to also have some political context mixed into it. The Communist Party of China may be cracking down on them as a possible attempt to snuff out other sources of power and influence aside from its own.