After a brief lull, thousands have returned to occupy some of Hong Kong’s main streets as the Chinese territory enters its third consecutive weekend of pro-democracy protests and sit-ins.
The recent decision of Hong Kong’s government to pull out of talks has galvanised the protest movement, which had been flagging this past week.
But there’s one person, at least, who’s guaranteed not to be among the throngs: the kung fu film star Jackie Chan.
In a message posted on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, Chan parroted the rhetoric of some of the protesters’ critics in Beijing and Hong Kong, urging “rationality” while insisting the protests were causing dangerous harm to the city’s economy. An English translation of his post, provided by the website Shanghaiist, reads: “I found out through the news that Hong Kong’s economic losses reached HK$350bn [£28bn] and I’m really worried... I believe every Hong Kong resident loves Hong Kong and wishes it well! Hong Kong’s bright tomorrow requires everyone’s support and hard work... In the song “Country”, one line goes, ‘There is no prosperous home without a strong country’. I am willing to work hard with everyone and return to rationality, to face the future, love our country, love our Hong Kong.”
Chan is unlikely to persuade many of those clamouring for democratic reforms in the Hong Kong he says he loves. Chan’s assertions regarding what the protests are doing to the Asian metropolis’s economy have been contested. And this is hardly the first time the movie star has made controversial statements, especially regarding freedoms and democracy in his native city.
In 2012, Chan complained to the Chinese press that Hong Kong “had become a city of protest” and suggested that free speech be curtailed.
“People scold China’s leaders, or anything else they like, and protest against everything,” he told Southern People Weekly, a publication based in Guangdong province, on the other side of the border with Hong Kong. “The authorities should stipulate what issues people can protest over and on what issues it is not allowed.”
Three years prior to that, at an event with Chinese business leaders in the island province of Hainan, he even speculated whether Chinese people deserved to have freedom. “I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said, according to the Associated Press. “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.”
According to reports, some of those in attendance greeted his remarks with rapturous applause.
Commenters on Chinese social media have already taken Chan to task for toeing the party line. The actor’s star has faded slightly in recent years following a number of embarrassing scandals, including the revelation of an extramarital affair as well as news of his own son’s drug problems. His latest comments only reinforce his reputation in the minds of some as a supplicant to power who knows on which side his bread gets buttered.
But Chan is hardly the only notable Hong Konger weary of the pro-democracy protests. The vast majority of the city’s powerful tycoons – whose combined wealth and influence have made Hong Kong into a functional oligarchy – remain in Beijing’s camp. Their collusion with the status quo rankles the protesters as much as China’s unwillingness to give them a genuine shot at democracy.
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