Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A ban on actor Tang Wei by Chinese authorities has been lifted, a friend tells me. Chinese censors, uncomfortable with the fact that Tang's character in the Ang Lee blockbuster movie Lust, Caution fell in love with a collaborator with the Japanese, stopped her from being chosen for new roles.

They also stopped her from being interviewed by the media in China. They stopped her from receiving commercial sponsorships.

China's relationship with Japan continues to be plagued by bitter memories of WWII atrocities carried out by Japan's troops, most notably in Nanjing, the ancient Chinese capital. Chinese authorites can count on popular resentment against the Japanese to support its policies, even to the point of whipping it up at will in order to make a point when the relationship happens to become strained.

The effect of the ban on Tang was that her life was completely "sealed" - sealed off from any exposure at all. Now, it seems, the seal has been officially broken.

"Everybody knows" about Tang being "sealed", my friend says. "It's very common in China."

News reports in Western media have mostly been less explicit. Writing for the Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune, journalist Min Lee says Lust, Caution was

a politically sensitive production that reportedly prompted officials to ban her in her home country.

The Entertainment Daily blog echoes this line:

But even though the edited version of the movie [Lust, Caution] was cleared for release, Chinese officials still wanted to punish Tang, ordering TV stations to pull ads featuring the actress and to stop covering her, according to news reports.

In March 2008, The Times was predictably less indirect:

China’s newest film star, who shot to fame in the director Ang Lee’s sexually explicit spy thriller Lust, Caution, has been blacklisted by Beijing authorities.

Television stations in Beijing and Shanghai were told to stop reporting on the actress Tang Wei, 28, and to pull any advertisements featuring her. The move followed an internal purge of officials associated with the film.

Presumably, the Times report was the one the others were referring to when they qualified their statements with words like "reportedly". The Times article is featured on Tang's Wikipedia page.

The article does not name its sources, who remain "Chinese sources" and notes that the "sealing" (ban) of Tang "has not been announced officially".

And while the ban on Tang has now been lifted, it is possible that she remains something of a liability in China. At the premier of the new film, Crossing Hennessy, at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, a Wall Street Journal blog reports, co-star Jacky Cheung was "a no-show".

Pic credit: Associated Press.

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