Actors who are banned from China

China's Communist regime has loosened a number of restrictions in recent years, but the country's still far from a bastion of freedom—right down to the fact that the government there has a history of deciding which, if any, American movies make their way into national theaters. While the Chinese government might be more open to American movies now, there are still plenty of topics and images that remain taboo—and there are certain actors they don't like at all, so much so that they have banned them from the country. Some were banned for speaking out against the Chinese government, while others ended up on the government blacklist for general disrespect. We've rounded up a list of Hollywood stars who are persona non grata with the Chinese government, and you can probably guess some of them, a number of the others just might surprise you. These are the actors who are banned from China.

Miley Cyrus

At this point, Miley Cyrus has probably scandalized every person in America in some way. While it's pretty impressive for a Disney star to suddenly turn into a controversial pop-culture icon, even more impressive is that her antics have gotten her banned from China.

Shockingly, the Chinese government didn't take offense to her dancing or embracing of drug culture. They got angry at a picture she took where she was imitating Asians by pulling back the skin around her eyes. It's something an elementary school kid does, not realizing it's racist. But a young adult should know better.

The Organization for Chinese Americans had strong words about the picture, but the Chinese government turned things up to 11, straight-up banning Miley Cyrus from the country. The Chinese Foreign Minister even got involved, stating, "Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children's minds with her American ignorance." That's a pretty strong reaction for one picture, but the Chinese are known for taking things very seriously. The pop singer shot back on a website message (which has since undergone drastic makeovers) by blaming the press for taking things out of context and attacking her, but the Chinese government wasn't having it, even after a second, less confrontational apology. Years after the picture, the ban remains in place.

Anastasia Lin

In 2016, beauty queen Anastasia Lin starred in The Bleeding Edge, a Canadian-Chinese film about the human rights violations in China. This wasn't the first time she got involved in Chinese human rights. For her whole adult life Lin has been an outspoken critic of China, this was just the most recent example of her activism. China has finally decided they have had enough of her.

Chinese officials banned Lin from entering the 65th annual Miss World pageant, which was being held in China. Lin didn't give up though, and planned to enter the country by requesting an on-demand visa when her flight landed in China. Basically, the strategy was to show up anyway and hope the government wouldn't want to cause a scene by barring her after she already flew over. We've used the same technique to try to get into parties we weren't invited to. Unfortunately the Chinese government didn't bend.

The organizers of the next pageant told her that she could compete in 2016, but on one condition: she could not talk about human rights during the pageant, since that could anger the Chinese companies backing the event. Lin hasn't been deterred and is still pushing for human rights in China. No matter what the Chinese government does, they just can't silence her. That's more admirable than winning any pageant.

Brad Pitt

Pro tip: if you are an actor who wants to ever set foot in China, don't do anything related to Tibet. The Chinese government is really sensitive about the region, and is neurotic about anything having to do with Dalai Lama, as Brad Pitt found out.

Pitt starred in the 1997 film Seven Years In Tibet, playing the 14th Dalai Lama's tutor. Chinese officials took offense to that movie because of how it portrayed the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Were they really expecting a movie where the Dalai Lama was the bad guy? Has a movie like that ever been made?

Deciding that the filmmakers needed to get punished for the movie, they barred the main people involved with the movie from China, including Pitt. Until 2016, Pitt couldn't set foot in China. After 19 years, the government decided he had learned his lesson. American films now do really well over in China, so it's no surprise that they finally let one of the most popular actors of all time come back in. We wouldn't be surprised at all if many of the government officials are huge Pitt fans. Xi Jinping, we're looking at you.

Selena Gomez

Meeting the Dalai Lama was probably a really cool experience for former Disney star Selena Gomez, but it also got her banned from China. In rehearsals for the 2014 We Day Vancouver event the pop-star met the Dalai Lama. That might not have been too bad for her Chinese relations, but somebody took a picture of it and Selena Gomez, being the teen idol she is, made sure to post the picture on her Instagram and Twitter.

The Chinese outrage was really slow in developing, and Selena Gomez didn't even know that the government had taken offense to the picture until two years later when she was planning tour dates in China. Her website announced shows scheduled for Guangzhou and Shanghai while the tour was in planning. One day those dates were mysteriously deleted from the website. 

According to sources the Chinese government had finally gotten around to enacting a ban on her for the now two-year old picture (which has since been removed from Twitter and Instagram), which we like to imagine was a hilariously long bureaucratic process and not the more simple explanation that the Chinese government didn't really have much reason to pay attention to Selena Gomez's Instagram back in 2014. But now we are imagining Chinese government officials scrolling through hundreds of Selena Gomez Instagram pictures as part of their job. That's a funny image.

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone was talking to the press at the 2008 Cannes Film festival when she started making comments about the deadly Sichuan Earthquake of that year. These weren't nice comments about helping with the disaster. Instead, she shared her belief that the earthquake was the result of bad karma built up by the Chinese for oppressing the Dalai Lama. Bad move. 

The earthquake wasn't just some minor thing that did a bit of damage, it killed close to 90,000 people. And there was Stone, talking about how it was probably cosmic retribution. That's shockingly insensitive. Even if she believed that the Chinese had treated the Dalai Lama wrong, that is definitely not an excuse to write off 90,000 deaths as cosmic revenge. 

In a move that surprised no one except probably Stone herself, the Chinese got mad and banned all of her movies from China. Oddly, it looks like they didn't ban Stone herself, but at this point she might as well have been. Nobody in China who recognizes her will be very nice, even though she says she is sorry for the comments.

Richard Gere

When most people saw Pretty Woman, they probably didn't realize that in a few short years Richard Gere would turn into a humanitarian hero. During the 1993 Academy Awards he issued an impromptu speech about the human rights abuses that China had inflicted on Tibet. It was a bold move, especially since he wasn't even giving an award acceptance speech. Gere was presenting the award for best art direction, skipped the pre-arranged comments, and took the opportunity to spread the word about Tibet.

It was a scandal. The Academy Awards producers were furious, and vowed to ban Gere from any future awards shows. That didn't stop him though. He continued to fight for Tibet and his long-time friend the Dalai Lama. Chinese government officials took a disliking to Gere and banned him from the country, which had a really negative impact on his career. Since major studios now need to make money in China for their movies to count as successes, major studios won't cast Gere anymore, fearing distribution repercussions from the Chinese government. 

Gere will not back down from fighting for Tibetan rights, and is now starring in indie films, which have actually given him his best reviews. Take that cowardly corporate suits!

Bjork

The talented Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork doesn't just make good music. She has branched into all sorts of artistic endeavors, including starring in Lars von Trier's 2000 movie Dancer in the Dark. While that movie didn't make China angry, Bjork's live performances sure did.

During a 2008 Shanghai concert, Bjork ended a performance of her song "Declare Independence" by yelling out "Tibet! Tibet!" Doesn't seem too bad right? Well, when you look at the lyrics of the song it's all about countries gaining their independence, making their own flags and currency, and fighting against oppression. So, definitely not the sort of song that China likes being dedicated to Tibet. If we've learned anything, the Chinese government is really, really sensitive about the situation.

The government quickly issued a statement, claiming that Bjork and other performance artists threatened Chinese national sovereignty and would whip up ethnic hatred in the country. Suddenly a ton of musicians found themselves on the Chinese blacklist. While Bjork was the impetus for the ban even artists like Bob Dylan got hit. Bjork still performs the song though, and has dedicated it to Kosovo and the Faroe Islands. Fortunately for her, Denmark isn't as sensitive about people calling for Faroe Islands independence.

Harrison Ford

Unlike many other actors who play bad-ass characters, Harrison Ford is like that in life. He spends his time rescuing stranded hikers and flying World War II airplanes, but his coolest achievement is pissing off the Chinese government by supporting Tibetan independence.

Ford is a long-time advocate for human rights and has been outspoken about the human rights abuses in China and their occupation of Tibet. He got involved in Tibetan issues in 1992 when his wife worked with Martin Scorsese on the script for the movie Kundun, the story of the 14th Dalai Lama. During this time he met the Dalai Lama. It was a turning point in Ford's life. He became an outspoken advocate for Tibet. 

In 1995 Ford testified before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the need for Tibetan independence and detailed all of China's human rights abuses in the region. If he was trying to piss off the Chinese government, he did well, because afterwards the Chinese banned Ford from the country along with his then-wife Melissa Matheson. But that hasn't stopped him from continuing to step on government's toes, and he still remains active in Tibet advocacy. Like a real-life Indiana Jones, Ford won't let authoritarian governments get their way.