Chinese Nationalists Blast Director Vicki Zhao for Casting Taiwanese Actor

Vicki Zhao H 2015
AP Images/Invision

The Communist Youth League has called for a boycott of her next feature, 'No Other Love,' which is backed by Alibaba Pictures.

Nationalists on Chinese social media have set their sights on actress-turned-director Vicki Zhao after she cast a well-known Taiwanese actor in the lead role of her next film.

The Communist Youth League, long a training ground for elite positions within the Chinese Communist Party, has waged a coordinated social media campaign over the past week criticizing Zhao (also known as Zhao Wei) for casting Leon Dai (Assassin, Double Vision) in the lead of her upcoming romance No Other Love.

In an article entitled "Zhao Wei’s New Film Met with Universal Boycott by Internet Users," the nationalist organization has alleged that Dai is a supporter of Taiwanese independence and Hong Kong's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement — political issues of particular consternation among the Chinese Communist Party.

"The state interests come before idol worship. I have liked you for many years, but you should have known better,” wrote one Weibo user, according to the South China Morning Post.

Zhao is one of China's most dynamic stars. After a successful run as a leading lady in films such as Shaolin Soccer (2001), Red Cliff (2008) and Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012), Zhao debuted as a director in 2013 with romantic drama So Young, which grossed $118 million from a budget of $5 million. Nicknamed "China's showbiz Warren Buffett," Zhao is also a noted investor. Prior to last summer's stock-market meltdown in China, her net worth was estimated at over $1 billion. She's also a successful pop singer.

No Other Love is backed by Alibaba Pictures and China Film Group, among other production partners.

According to the SCMP, both Dai and members of the film's production crew have made public statements denying that the actor has any political agenda or pro-Taiwan-independence stance.

Nationalists have exerted political influence over Asian entertainment figures via social media before. In January, 16-year-old Taiwanese K-pop singer Tzuyu became embroiled in a controversy after waving the Taiwanese flag during a South Korean online variety show. The gesture was promptly characterized as a statement of support for Taiwanese independence, and her Chinese concerts, along with a local endorsement deal, were canceled. Tzuyu later filmed and posted a video apologizing and stating that she believes there is "only one China."