Vicky Zhao, Leon Dai Under Fire From China Nationalists

Nationalist forces have turned on Zhao Wei, one of China’s most popular actresses and leading directors, due to the inclusion of Taiwan’s Leon Dai in her upcoming film.

The Communist Youth League has used its own website and social media to criticize Zhao (aka Vicky Zhao) over Dai’s alleged support for Taiwanese independence. Its posting on Weibo appears to call for an online boycott of the Zhao-directed “No Other Love” and other films involving Dai.

“No Other Love” is now in post-production. It is partly-backed by Alibaba Pictures Group, the film making arm of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba. Other companies credited as producers include China Film Group, Cheerland Entertainment and Pulin Production.

With lengthy text and multiple pictures, the Youth League accuses the veteran Dai (“The Assassin,” “Betelnut Beauty”) has shown his support for Taiwan’s ‘Sunflower’ movement, for universal suffrage and for the Occupy Central mass protest that closed Hong Kong streets for nearly two months in 2014 ahead of a decision on democratic elections in the Special Administrative Region.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, when millions fled the mainland where the Communist party forces were winning a civil war. Mainland China (officially, the People’s Republic of China) today regards Taiwan (the Republic of China) as a rebel province with which it will be reunited by force if necessary.

Tensions between the two sides are currently running high since the arrival in May of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s President. The accidental firing of a missile from Taiwan last month added to the antagonistic climate.

Contacted by Variety, Alibaba Pictures said only that it is an investor in the project, not its producer. “We are not involved in the content or making of the movie,” a spokesman said. Local media have reported that both Zhao and Dai have previously issued statements denying any political agenda or support for an independent Taiwan.

Chinese policy can have sometimes dramatic impact on movies and stars. Massive 2015 hit movie had to be substantially reshot after Taiwanese actor Kai Ko was banned, after being caught alongside Jaycee Chan, in a Beijing drugs bust. Ko’s scenes were also cut out of “Tiny Times 4.”

The next steps for “No Other Love” and Alibaba Pictures are unclear. While it may be a minority investor in “No Other Love” Alibaba Pictures has significant relationship with Zhao. She is set to direct Alibaba Pictures’ “My Fair Princess” an animated feature version of the TV series that made her a star in the 1990s.

Also, reported to be a close friend of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Zhao was an early investor in Alibaba Pictures Group. Together with her husband, Huang Yulong, she holds 1.93 billion shares in the company, worth US$460 million (HK$3.43 billion) at current prices.

Zhao has been the star of hit movies including “Shaolin Soccer,” “Painted Skin” and “Red Cliff.” As a pop musician she has released seven albums. She was also a judge on the 5th season of reality show “China’s Got Talent.”

After Zhao graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2012, her feature directing debut “So Young” was one of the biggest hits of 2013. She has been no stranger to controversy. In 2001 she was forced to repeatedly apologize for wearing a dress that appeared to replicate a Japanese military flag.

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