Chinese billionaire actress Zhao Wei appears to have been the latest target of Chinese government censorship after China’s major video platforms removed most of her movies and shows, citing a short notice request from the government.
Zhao, owner of several Bordeaux wineries including Saint Emilion grand cru Château Monlot, was blacklisted after several Chinese video platforms including Tencent video, iQiyi and Youku said they had received the request on a short notice for unspecified reason.
In what appears to be a massive Internet purge of Zhao that came to light on August 26, it even caused confusion among wine merchants selling her Bordeaux wines.
JD.com reportedly pulled out her Château Monlot page but it was later reinstated. However, all mentions of Zhao on the page was removed, reported Chinese wine media WBO.
So far there has been no official reason for her censorship, and Zhao’s whereabouts are still unknown at this stage.
On August 28, rumours are rife that Zhao had fled overnight to France and stayed at her chateau in Bordeaux. The following day, Zhao posted from her Instagram account, saying she’s with her parents, which is perceived by Internet watchers as a tacit response to her disappearance. The post however was shortly deleted, raising more questions on her fate.
It’s not clear what caused Zhao’s ordeal, but speculations are on her close ties to Alibaba founder Jack Ma and their business dealings, as well as China’s latest push to punish “misbehaving celebrities”, whose offenses range from saying inflammatory remarks on China to tax evasion.
Zhao herself was the target of national outrage in 2001 when she was photographed wearing a dress reminiscent of Japanese imperial rising sun flag, which is considered by countries in China and Korea as a symbol of Japanese war crimes.
Most recently, her name was tarnished because her agency represented Zhang Zhehan, a Chinese actor who got cancelled in China after an old selfie he took at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine in 2018 emerged online. Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese soldiers, many of whom are WWII war criminals.
Outside of her acting arena, she’s considered a successful businesswoman and was once called “China’s female Buffett” with investments in real estate, entertainment, and wine industry.
Zhao was among the first Asian celebrities tapping into winemaking business in Bordeaux.
In 2011, the actress spent €40 million and purchased Château Monlot, a Saint-Emilian Grand Cru winery spanning 8.5 ha. The winery hired Château Angelus owner Hubert de Bouard as its chief consultant and former Petrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet as consultant, according to its official Tmall page.
She went on to purchase Château Patarabet located at the foot of the village of Saint-Émilion and the 16-ha Château La Vue in 2013. Her footprint expanded into Entre-Deux-Mers with the purchase of 57-ha Château Senailhac in 2015. Most recently, she purchased Château La Croix de la Roche, a 12 ha winery in AOC Fronsac and Bordeaux.
In addition to wineries, she also founded a negociant house called SAS Cellar Privilege, selling her wines back to China.
Her winning business streak came to an end in 2017 when both her and her husband Huang Youlong were banned from Chinese security markets for market violations in 2017.
Her close friend Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba has also fallen afoul of Chinese authorities. Ma owns Château de Sours and Chateau Perenne in Bordeaux.