The 39-year-old American-Chinese director is the first woman of colour to ever win the award – for her work in the 2020 film Nomadland.
When film magazine Watch Movies announced Zhao’s win on the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, the post was censored a few hours later.
Additionally, a hashtag “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was also censored on the platform showing an error message saying: “According to relevant laws and regulations and policies, the page is not found.”
In her acceptance speech, the director said: “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and in each other. This is for you; you inspire me to keep going.”
She likewise quoted a 13th-century Chinese poem, that she memorised as a child, titled: “People are good at birth.”
Even though Chinese media did not acknowledge Zhao’s historic win, locals took to the internet to congratulate her.
One user posted a photograph of Zhao on Twitter with the caption: “It’s so good to hear Korean and Chinese being spoken at the Oscars.”
Comic Jenny Yang wrote: “The three character classical Chinese poem?!?! Chloe Zhao really out here telling them how we were raised.”
One commentator wrote on Weibo: “The four words of: Oscar, Chinese, female, and director, are finally connected in this moment, forming a very proud sentence.”
When Zhao won a Golden Globe for the best director category in March, she faced immense backlash as Chinese individuals started questioning whether or not she should be called Chinese.
They also accused her of insulting her home country by commenting on the Chinese political framework.
“They cut the VPN,” event organizer Kevin Ke said.
Media in China is strictly controlled by the ruling party through self-censorship and any online criticism about the authorities can result in cancelling and boycotts of brands and entertainers.
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