Zhang Zhehan, a 31-year-old Chinese actor, has just won the Best Overseas Actor in Japan. Despite his popularity in the country, he is gasping for career survival in his hometown.

Up Media reported that he topped the list of favorite overseas TV drama stars released by Japanese magazine SCREEN for his role as Zhou Zishu in the Word of Honor movie. However, the outlet said there is no hope of revitalizing his acting career, as the Chinese government has canceled him.

All came from a series of selfies in 2019.

That year, the famed Chinese actor and singer attended a wedding of a Chinese-Japanese mixed-race friend in Japan. He visited Nogi Shrine in Japan and took a selfie with Dewi Sukarno, the former first lady of Indonesia. Netizens later dug up past images of him taken at the Yasukuni Shrine.

Soon enough, criticisms started to shower Zhang. He was considered a pro-Japanese traitor who dispirited his country. The backlashes went as far as claiming him to humiliate his motherland. 

When it comes to recollections of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine is the venue that requires delicate handling. The Chinese government, for years, has been promoting the 1937 Nanjing Massacre commemoration, a historical event where allegedly thousands of Nanjing citizens were executed by Japanese troops. 

Ms. Dewi is also known for being the person who denied the massacre. 

However, the rhetoric around this incident has sometimes raised doubts over political implications. Beijing’s treatment of doubters caught attention last year when a mainland teacher was expelled after advising students to verify official accounts of the event. Another teacher who supported the colleague was threatened with psychiatric care afterward.

For Chinese actor Zhang who debuted in 2009, he was immediately banned. His partnership contracts were also canceled, one of which was with Coca-Cola.

In an apology statement last August, Zhang said he regretted being unknowledgeable of the nation’s historical sentiment as a public figure. He also reasserted that he loved his motherland. 

Three years passed, Up Media reported that Zhang is now widely adored in the Japanese entertainment industry, with fans lauding his acting skills and hoping to see more of his works.

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