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Jackson Yee Rejects National Theater Job After Public Outcry

Although Yee has issued a public apology, netizens are still aggressively calling him out — has netilantism (internet vigilantism) gone too far?

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Jul 22, 2022 2 mins read

On July 17, TFBoysJackson Yee took to Weibo to announce that he would not be accepting a prestigious job offer from the National Theater of China, an institution known for presenting the country’s best theatrical performances. The celebrity’s decision follows complaints from the public about hiring bias.


Since turning down the job, the Chinese internet has been abuzz with conversations surrounding the incident, celebrity privileges, and China’s toxic social media environment.


When the National Theater of China announced seven new acting candidacies on July 6, some netizens immediately questioned Yee’s true qualifications. Actor Hu Xianxu and musician Luo Yizhou, a member of boy band Ixform, are two other celebrities who also received employment opportunities from the performing arts institution.


That being said, as the most famous of the three and one of China’s hottest celebrities, Yee seems to have received the most attention and pressure from the public. Boy group aside, the 21-year-old has found success in acting, appearing in blockbusters like The Battle at Lake Changjin and Better Days.


jackson yee national theater job

Jackson Yee and co-star Zhou Dongyu in Better Days. Image via IMDb


Netizens began to pressure the National Theater of China for transparency on its recruitment requirements, especially since the position offered to Yee comes with a government bianzhi, which encompasses lifetime job security, housing subsidies and many other perks.


In light of economic downturns and massive layoffs in the tech industry, government jobs have become the new status symbol in recent years, which has even birthed a new fashion trend dubbed ‘civil servant chic.’


“Neither statement issued by the National Theater or Jackson Yee is very clear. They didn’t even dare to release the interview record,” reads one accusation on Weibo.


“The role of social media is to expose the privileged class and to do hard workers justice!” rallied another.

Yee eventually took to Weibo to defend his fair admittance process. According to the celebrity, he attended three rounds of interviews — two in-person and one online due to Covid-19 restrictions.


“In order to not bother you guys and after careful consideration, I have decided to turn down the offer from the National Theater,” said the actor in the same post. “But if given the opportunity, I still want try to enter the field of theater to study and improve myself.”


A hashtag related to his decision quickly went viral on Weibo and has already reached a whopping 1.9 billion views.


Still unsatisfied, some users have accused Weibo of removing provocative posts and playing up Yee’s responses. Additionally, ironic references were made to Better Days, such as, “an anti-violence protagonist is now suffering from wide-scale cyberbullying.”


“If it had all been done per the rules, why did he turn down the offer?” wondered one netizen.


To make matters even more convoluted, some suspect that Yee turned down the position at the very last minute, so that it’d be impossible for another talent to fill the role.


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Jackson Yee received multiple nominations and awards after starring in Better Days. Image via Weibo


In his Weibo post, the celebrity confessed that his mental well-being has been affected by the negative gossip: “I must admit that the ridiculous rumors, which are contrary to common sense and go against my family, make me feel unprecedentedly terrified.”


His statement begs the question of whether netizens are just out to crush celebrities these days. Has netilantism (internet vigilantism) gone too far?


Yee isn’t the only celebrity to face a hostile social media environment. In 2021, Chinese comedian Chizi quit social media because “it is an avenue for bullying.” Even iconic brands like Swarovski and the NBA as well as TV show South Park have all been subjected to China’s ever-growing cancel culture.


Cover image via IMDb

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