It just became a lot more difficult to watch Keanu Reeves in action…if you are in China. While streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ dominate the viewing audience of most Western nations, The People’s Republic of China has its own equivalents, the most notable of which are iQiyi, Tencent Video, Bilibili, and Xigua Video. As of right now, it appears that almost all movies starring Keanu Reeves have been scrubbed from those streaming services. While the sudden change is still being investigated, some outlets are claiming that Keanu Reeves does not show up at all via search, and some movies featuring the actor (such as Toy Story 4) appear to have been edited to remove or minimize his presence. It is speculated that Keanu Reeves’ appearance via streaming video on 35th annual Tibet House Benefit Concert caused China to remove his films as retribution.
Keanu Reeves appeared as a performer at the 35th annual Tibet House Benefit Concert, along with many other notables like composer Philip Glass, musician Patti Smith, and late-night television host Stephen Colbert. Tibet House is a cultural preservation non-profit founded in 1987 to promote Tibetan culture globally, at the prompting of the Dalai Lama. The nation of Tibet was forcibly annexed by the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and as its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has been in exile since 1959. The matter of Tibetan sovereignty and China’s claim on the territory is a centuries-long one, and China largely brooks no dispute to their assertion of control over the area. As such, any acknowledgment of Tibet as an autonomous nation is met by pushback by Chinese nationalists. In Keanu Reeves’ case, this means removing the ability for his films to be seen or marketed to the enormous (and increasingly important) audience market of China.
Chinese media is state-controlled and subject to essentially complete censorship. Recently, it was noted in Western media that apparently David Fincher’s 1999 movie Fight Club had been edited to add an ending in which the radical anti-capitalists of the story had been re-educated off screen and were now productive members of society. While the original ending was restored for Chinese audiences after widespread outcry (and mockery), it is a prime example of the control the Chinese government exerts over art and media that do not align with cultural policies. Chinese nationalists had already called for a boycott of Keanu Reeves’ recent movie The Matrix Resurrections due to his public support of Tibet. While the film was eventually shown in China (and was actually one of the first American theatrical films to premiere there in 2022), it can be surmised that the removal of Reeves’ films is connected.
Keanu Reeves’ upcoming movies not being able to be streamed in China is notable for its suddenness (and the loss to audiences of not being able to enjoy Point Break), but is by no means a unique case of China threatening Hollywood via their ability to control the viewing habits of what is now the single largest film market in the world. Professional wrestler/actor John Cena notably issued a blanket apology via the Chinese social media network Weibo after he referred to Taiwan as a country, while China asserts its sovereignty over the area in a similar fashion to Tibet.