By Emily Chow
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A livestream of the Shanghai Academy Awards hosted by Oscar winner Chloe Zhao’s alma mater came across China’s Great Firewall, with the host’s access to its Virtual Private Network (VPN) service for was locked for almost two hours.
Zhao, who was born in China, was named best director for “Nomadland” on Sunday. This made her the first woman of color to win the category in the award’s 93-year history.
About 30 people had gathered in a small bar in the Bund, a historic district in the center of Shanghai, to support Zhao as early as 8:00 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) and to follow the awards live on YouTube.
However, the screening, hosted by New York University’s Alumni Society, didn’t start until 10 a.m. when organizer Kevin Ke got his VPN service up and running.
“They cut the VPN off,” Ke previously said in heated tones as he tried to get the screening going.
Ke told Reuters that his WeChat account was closed after he wrote a post praising Zhao.
Many Western apps like YouTube are banned in China, where the local internet is strictly regulated and often censored with content that could undermine the country’s ruling Communist Party. A VPN service is required to bypass the so-called Great Firewall.
Zhao’s victory came due to increasing nationalism in China, where the Beijing-born director grew up. In March, Chinese internet users said Zhao insulted China and questioned her nationality after unearthing an interview Zhao gave in 2013 criticizing the country.
Information about “Nomadland” about the traveling van community in modern America has been deleted from Chinese ticketing platforms, movie review websites and social media.
The film’s release, slated for April 23 in mainland China, has been suspended. Chinese regulators have also ordered local media not to broadcast the Oscars.
Video clips of Zhao’s acceptance of the best director award were posted on Chinese social media on Monday.
“I was a bit surprised that Zhao didn’t use Mandarin to say thank you,” said an internet user on China’s Twitter-like microblog Weibo (NASDAQ :). “Bong Joon-ho spoke in his mother tongue and is striving for the right to speak Korean internationally.”
Bong, a Korean director, won four Oscars for “Parasite” last year.
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