No democracy, please, we're Chinese! Hong Kong kung fu supremo Jackie Chan is famous worldwide for beating up the bad guys, but the action star is unlikely to use his martial arts skills to fight for democracy.
Chan launched a broadside against calls for more freedom in China this weekend, saying he wasn't sure if a free society was what the country needed and that Chinese people needed to be controlled. His remarks have proven unpopular in his native city-state.
"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not. I'm really confused now. If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic," Chan, 55, told the Boao Forum for Asia – a regional conference modelled on the World Economic Forum in Davos – when pressed by fellow panel members to take a stance against rigorous control of the media on the mainland and to give his views on suffocating censorship in the growing Chinese film market.
"I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want," he said.
His comments were warmly received by the audience, composed mostly of Chinese business leaders, but Hong Kong pro-democracy legislators were incensed. "He's insulted the Chinese people. Chinese people aren't pets," pro-democracy legislator Leung Kwok-hung told the Associated Press. "Chinese society needs a democratic system to protect human rights and the rule of law," he said.
Veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Albert Ho said Chan's remarks were "racist".
"People around the world are running their own countries. Why can't Chinese do the same?"
Like many Hong Kongers with major business interests in mainland China, Chan has taken a steadfastly pro-Beijing line since the former British colony reverted to Chinese control in 1997. Under the territory's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Hong Kong enjoys considerably more freedom than the mainland.
In democratic Taiwan, MP Huang Wei-che said Chan "has enjoyed freedom and democracy and has reaped the economic benefits of capitalism. But he has yet to grasp the true meaning of freedom and democracy".
Chan was critical of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing and other Chinese cities in June 1989, but in recent years has taken a much more pro-Beijing line. He was heavily involved in the public relations drive ahead of the Olympics and features as a Chinese customs officer in a promotional video aimed at stopping tourists buying pirated goods when visiting China.