Why Keanu Reeves practically doesn’t exist in China

Daisy Phillipson

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Why Keanu Reeves practically doesn’t exist in China

Featured Image Credit: AmityPhotos/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Despite being one of the biggest (and nicest) stars of Hollywood, Keanu Reeves more or less doesn't exist in China.

The 58-year-old actor is recognised worldwide for his roles in a wide variety of hit films, from The Matrix and John Wick to the 90s classic Bill & Ted series.

But beyond the camera, he's also earned a reputation as Hollywood's 'nicest guy' by donating huge sums of money to charity and carrying out plenty of random acts of kindness.

In short, he's a legend – but in China it's a totally different story.

Movies starring Keanu Reeves were wiped from major Chinese streamers. Credit: Warner Bros.
Movies starring Keanu Reeves were wiped from major Chinese streamers. Credit: Warner Bros.

You see, earlier this year the country's major streamers set to work removing his movies from their sites.

According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 19 of Reeves' films were scrubbed from the Tencent Video platform, while a majority of them were taken off other streamers including Youku, Migu Video, Bilibili and Xigua Video.

The publication also tried searching for the Chinese translation of the actor's name on the entertainment service iQiyi, only to find the following result: "Sorry, no results related to ‘Keanu Reeves’ were found."

The platform added: "Due to relevant laws, regulations and policies, some results are not shown."

So why exactly has the star been given the cold shoulder by China? Well, apparently it has to do with their censorship practices in relation to Tibet.

The actor attended an event organised by Tibet House US earlier this year. Credit: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo
The actor attended an event organised by Tibet House US earlier this year. Credit: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

Tibet has been the subject of dispute for decades, having been invaded and occupied by the Chinese Communist regime in 1950.

While Beijing maintains that Tibet is part of China, Tibetans argue their country has been historically independent.

The Dalai Lama, who has been living in India since 1959 following China's annexation of the region, previously said that the people of Tibet 'confront a calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of their national and cultural identities'.

As for why this relates to Reeves, like many other celebrities in the past, it's believed that he upset the Chinese government by showing support for Tibet earlier this year.

On March 3, the actor attended the 35th annual Tibet House Benefit Concert which was organised by Tibet House US, a non-profit founded at the request of the Dalai Lama.

Reeves, who is of Chinese descent on his father's side, became extremely popular with the Chinese market in the mid-nineties early on in his career.

However, Chinese nationalists feel he has turned his back on his heritage after attending the concert, with many threatening to boycott The Matrix: Resurrections, which dropped in Chinese theatres a couple of months prior.

Though the film remained in cinemas, it appears authorities took action instead by wiping any memory of the actor's work from its streaming sites.

In a conversation with the LA Times, Alex Yu, a researcher at China Digital Times, described the case as 'curious' and 'worth following'.

Yu added: "We tend to think of the censorship machine in China as this really coordinated monster, but the fact that we’re seeing these conflicting signals [between the online and theatrical markets] suggests that some of these measures come from different places."

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Topics: News, China, Keanu Reeves, Film and TV, World News

Daisy Phillipson
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