The mystery surrounding billionaire actress Zhao Wei and her whereabouts intensified over the weekend after unsubstantiated reports spread that she had fled China for France after she was blacklisted by Beijing authorities.
On Saturday, reports emerged on Chinese news sites that Zhao had fled the country on a private jet and was spotted at Bordeaux airport in France. Zhao and her husband Huang Youlong are the owners of Chateau Monlot, a vineyard located just outside Bourdeaux.
Seeking to dispel the rumors, and being banned from Chinese social media sites such as Weibo, Zhao posted three pictures to her Instagram account Sunday, despite that platform being blocked in China. Reports say Zhao claimed on Instagram that she was staying with her parents in Beijing and in reply to a commenter she denied she was in France. The Instagram post was later deleted.
Last Thursday, upon orders from the government, all entries related to Zhao on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo were removed, her name was scrubbed from the credits of films and TV shows, and all content featuring her — including film, TV, chat show appearances and more was removed from major streaming sites like Tencent Video and iQiyi.
All discussion of Zhao on social media is also censored. No official explanation for the blacklisting was given but the Chinese government is in the midst of a crackdown on the entertainment industry and the excesses of celebrity fan culture.
Zhao, who is also known as Vicky or Vicki Zhao and notably starred in My Fair Princess, Shaolin Soccer and Lost in Hong Kong, is a popular star turned billionaire investor and is the face of Italian fashion house Fendi in China.
Chinese state newspaper The Global Times reported that no official reason had been given for the moves to erase Zhao’s presence and work from the Internet, but it did resurface historical allegations of financial impropriety and a number of other scandals. Most notably, in 2018, the Shanghai Stock Exchange banned Zhao and her husband Huang Youlong from acting as listed company executives for five years due to issues and irregularities related to a failed takeover bid in 2016.
A close friend of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Zhao and her husband were early investors in Alibaba Pictures Group buying a $400 million stake in 2015. Once China’s highest-profile billionaire, Ma’s star has dimmed after spectacularly falling out of favour with Beijing.