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Hong Kong action film star Jackie Chan holds toy pandas as he poses for photos outside the Kremlin in Moscow on December 6, 2012.
Jackie Chan may be best known for his action-packed films and famed ability to mix martial arts and comedy. But many in his hometown and elsewhere are less than amused by the actor’s latest effort: an interview in which he said Hong Kong should have more restrictions on its lively protest scene.
In an interview this week with the Guangzhou-based Southern People Weekly, Mr. Chan said Hong Kong had become a “city of protest.” While not fully democratic, the former British colony is famous for its numerous demonstrations, including the annual July 1 pro-democracy march that organizers said attracted 400,000 participants this year, as well as smaller, near-daily protests spanning a wide range of issues.
“People scold China, they scold leaders, or anything else they like. They protest against everything,” said Mr. Chan. “There should be rules to determine what people can protest about and on what issues they can’t protest about.”
Locals in Hong Kong took umbrage with his comments and pan-democrats and political scientists immediately criticized the action star. In the city’s Wan Chai district, a retired woman in her 70s, Lin Chun-yong, said she demonstrates weekly on behalf of in support of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that is banned in China. She said Mr. Chan should stick to beating up bad guys, not weighing in on politics.
“Unlike the mainland, Hong Kong is very free, which is a good thing,” Ms. Lin said. “We have to protest to get journalists’ attention, and sometimes we can’t get journalists’ attention and so we also have to protest.”
Other recent comments by Mr. Chan, who was a martial arts movie idol in Hong Kong before moving on to star turns in Hollywood blockbusters, also failed to endear him to the public. In 2009 at the Boao Forum for Asia in China’s Hainan Province, in reply to a question about mainland censorship of filming, Mr. Chan said, “I don’t know whether it’s better to have freedom or to have no freedom. With too much freedom, it can get very chaotic.” He also said that Chinese people “need to be controlled,” sparking fury from Hong Kong and elsewhere. Mr. Chan later said the remarks had been taken out of context.
Efforts to reach Mr. Chan through his publicist weren’t successful.
In this week’s interview, Mr. Chan also reflected at length on Hong Kong’s time as a British colony before it returned to Chinese control in 1997. “Under the British, it wasn’t that free. Would you hear so much gossipy news then? Would you see so many protests on the street? No. The city was very well-behaved. British people really suppressed us,” said Mr. Chan.
“We don’t like to be suppressed, we like freedom,” he said. “But you can’t do whatever you like.”