Chinese starlet has fans worldwide - except in Hong Kong
AP Entertainment Writer
Mar. 28, 2006
HONG KONG (AP) - She speaks English with a funky Beijing accent. The beaded
black and gray Armani outfit she wore to the Oscars was frumpy. She squats on
the floor like a Chinese farmer when she goes shopping.
So say Hong Kong media, which just love to bash Zhang Ziyi - the movie world's
hottest young Chinese actress.
Although Hollywood is enthralled with the spunky beauty who starred in "Memoirs
of a Geisha" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Zhang's critics in this
movie-mad city enjoy picking her apart. And the criticism can be downright
"Zhang Ziyi's Armani evening gown made her look so flat-chested it was
scary," the Sing Tao Daily, a major Chinese-language newspaper, said in a
headline about the 27-year-old starlet's appearance at the Oscars earlier this
Zhang, who declined to provide comment for this story, has said previously the
venom has to do with Hong Kongers' deeply entrenched bias against mainland
Chinese, who are viewed to be bumpkins and gold diggers.
"They think, 'How can you be an international movie star? You are only from
China.' For them, China is like the countryside," Zhang was quoted as saying in
an interview with The Sunday Times of London in 2004.
Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 150 years before it was returned to
China in 1997. The city, a global financial center, is much more cosmopolitan
than mainland cities, and the population is better educated and more affluent.
A good example of the disdain for mainlanders is found in a 2004 article about
Zhang in Next magazine, a popular weekly glossy known for its hard-charging
The publication printed a photo allegedly showing Zhang squatting down to browse
the bottom shelf in a store. A snarky picture caption said, "Miss Zhang displays
the special trait of our motherland's compatriots" - squatting down, her legs
People can often be seen squatting in China in crowded places - such as railroad
stations - where the ground is too dirty for sitting and there's limited public
Zhang's rapid rise and ongoing success may also feed envy that has made her the
favorite dart board for Hong Kong's newspapers and magazines, whose hyper
aggressive celebrity coverage makes U.S. supermarket tabloids look like National
Many of the Hong Kong publications made sure their knives were extra sharp for
the Oscars, where Zhang presented the award for best editing.
A headline in Apple Daily - one of the most popular dailies - ripped into
Zhang's English: "Zhang Ziyi presents awards with Beijing-accented English."
The story added, "She still can't change her English with a Beijing country
accent. She didn't pronounce the 'r' in the winning movie 'Crash' properly."
Sing Tao Daily said Zhang read her cue card with "quivering lips" and her
pronunciation of "Crash" sounded more like the toothpaste "Crest."
The Ming Pao Daily noted the Zhang forgot to hug or shake hands with the award
winner, though the paper conceded that her English was improving.
The Zhang bashing didn't stop there. Hong Kong writers also savaged her Giorgio
Armani outfit: a black beaded bustier with a crystal encrusted gray skirt.
"Lacking in youthful vigor," read a photo caption in the Oriental Daily News, a
mass-market Chinese-language paper. Apple Daily hissed, "Zhang Ziyi two decades
behind the times."
Zhang's performance could have been an ethnic Chinese pride-pumping moment, and
that's how it was treated by media in mainland China and Taiwan.
"Zhang Ziyi's English rolls off her tongue," said the Liberty Times, one of
Taiwan's three biggest dailies. Another Taiwanese paper, the Min Sheng Daily,
said "Zhang Ziyi's English is no longer poor."
She made her big screen debut with famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou's "The
Road Home," released in 1998. Her next film was "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon," the Oscar-winning kung fu hit of 2000. In her short career, she's made
11 films, including the Hollywood movies "Rush Hour 2" (2001) and "Memoirs of a
Thomas Shin, a film critic and editor at the Hong Kong Economic Times, doesn't
buy into the Zhang bashing. He feels she is a solid actress with strong
fundamentals. And when he interviewed her she left a good impression.
"She's very nice and she's a very smart woman," he said.
"She's really sincere," he added. "She says what's on her mind."