China’s newest film star, Tang Wei, 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.
The ban on Tang, which has not been announced officially, was ordered in part because of the sex scenes but in the main because the movie has been deemed to glorify unpatriotic behaviour, Chinese sources said. Tang plays a student activist who seduces a Chinese intelligence official collaborating with the occupying Japanese forces during the Second World War in Shanghai. Instead of setting up her lover for assassination, Tang’s character gives away the plot, allowing him to escape.
The State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) sent a memo to all television stations and print media last Thursday ordering a halt to broadcasts of a new advertisement in which Tang promotes Pond’s brand skincare products. Her deal was reported to be worth six million yuan (£450,000) for the doe-eyed young actress plucked from obscurity by Lee to star in the film.
The Taiwanese director expressed dismay at the move. He said in a statement: “I am very disappointed that Tang Wei is being hurt by this decision. She gave one of the greatest performances in a movie that was properly produced and distributed. We will do everything to support her.”
Lee had himself cut seven minutes of graphic sex scenes from the film to ensure that it could be shown last year in Chinese cinemas. But the authorities in Beijing have since censured officials at SARFT for allowing the film to be released, charging that they had passed a film that was a “glorification of traitors and insulting to patriots”. Several officials at SARFT are believed to have been fired or punished in the crackdown.
All awards shows in China have been advised to exclude Tang and the producers of Lust, Caution from their guest lists, Hong Kong newspapers said. Discussions about the film and Tang on online forums in China have been deleted from the internet. Her name no longer appears in a Google search on the internet in China.
A March 7 statement on the SARFT website notified all leading film and broadcast entities that it was renewing bans on lewd and pornographic content, including any scenes of rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversity and masturbation. The notice made no mention of Lust, Caution. The film won the top Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival last year and has been a huge hit in China and in Hong Kong and Taiwan. No reports have specified whether Lee might also be a target of the purge. He is highly regarded in China and has been invited to act as an artistic adviser to the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing in August.