Chinese actor Xiao Zhan’s apology video goes viral following AO3 controversy

By Gong Qian Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/7 19:03:40

Chinese actors Wang Yibo(left) and Xiao Zhan

A video of an interview with Chinese singer and actor Xiao Zhan has gone viral on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, with many Chinese netizens praising the star for his courage to apologize to the public for the actions of fans who caused overseas fanfic platform Archive of Our Own (AO3) to become blocked in the Chinese mainland back in late February.

In the video released Wednesday on Sina Weibo, Xiao said, "Some time ago, some disputes related to me occurred, and this dispute happened during the key period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I feel very sorry. If those disputes caused some trouble to some people, I want to make an apology to them." Although the star did not specify what the "disputes" were, many Chinese netizens have surmised that he was referring to the AO3 controversy from three months ago. The video had earned more than 39.15 million views as of Thursday afternoon.

In February, the star and a portion of his fandom became the center of controversy after a group of Xiao's fans reported overseas fan fiction site AO3 to the Chinese authorities for hosting fan fiction that depict Xiao and his male co-star Wang Yibo from the hit TV drama The Untamed in a same-sex relationship. The fans claimed they reported the site to protect their idol's reputation being ruined from what they claimed were pornographic stories. The platform, which was extremely popular in the Chinese mainland, became inaccessible soon after, provoking a huge backlash among the public, with some criticizing the fans for damaging artistic freedom.

This is the first public interview that Xiao has received since the event. Overall the response has been positive, with many Chinese netizens saying they appreciate that Xiao could bravely face negative comments with a brave and modest attitude. 

The hashtag for exclusive interview with Economic View has earned 1.08 billion views on Sina Weibo as of Thursday and over on Twitter topped the leading trend list for Thailand, where The Untamed is extremely popular. 

"His voice was trembling and hoarse while answering questions and I could feel his honesty and tenacity throughout the video. He calmly confronted right and wrong, and took the opportunity to spread positive energy by calling on people to do some charity work," Wang Jing, a 32-year-old dance teacher from Southwest China's Yunnan Province, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"As an onlooker, no matter whether the interview was just a public relations measure, I think he was brave enough to proactively respond to the controversy surrounding him," Zheng Ruiying, a 22-year-old netizen from Southwest China's Sichuan Province, told the Global Times.

However, some fans of the fanfic platform were not willing to accept the apology. 

Wang Hanlin, a 27-year-old AO3 fan, told the Global Times that she was upset that Xiao did not clearly apologize for the A03 incident. 

"He knows his fans made a mistake but doesn't dare to say it because he does not want to give up the benefits these fans bring him by offending them. I didn't feel his apology was honest," Wang said.

Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday that he agrees with Wang's assessment but added that the star is also under pressure from his agency and so does not have much freedom to speak out. Shi also criticized the agency for not handling the controversy better.

According to reports, Xiao's agency apologized on Sina Weibo in early March and called on fans to be more rational in support of their idol.

"I think that stars' agency should play a more benign role between artists and fans, and also establish a good communication relationship with fan groups," Shi said.

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