Jackie Chan plays to the wrong crowd

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 1:57am

Anything said by that comedian Jackie Chan should be taken with a pinch of salt, but his remarks, about restricting rights in his home town and toting hand grenades to deter his badass triad buddies, are worthy of some reflection.

Immediately apparent is that the star of high-grossing trash like Rush Hour, Police Story and Cannonball Run seems to live in a fantasy world even after the cameras have stopped rolling. His assertion, in an interview published in Guangzhou's Southern People Weekly, that he once saw off 20 gangsters armed with melon knives by brandishing grenades and firearms, is more laughable than any of his movies, but not in the same way.

More unfunny were his statements that Hongkongers doth protest too much, and that "the authorities should stipulate what issues people can protest over and on what issues it is not allowed". If they don't, chided the man whose real name (Chan Kong-sang) means "born in Hong Kong", then we will land up like South Korea or Taiwan. That remark probably switched off about half his potential audience, but not that Jackie will mind too much, judging by his latest movie, CZ12.

According to our own review, the movie written and directed by Chan is about a mission led by Asian Hawk (Chan) to find six missing bronze sculptures from a set of 12 depicting the animals of the Chinese zodiac. The movie obviously refers to the mainland government's attempt to recover sculptures looted by French and British troops from the Summer Palace in Beijing during the second opium war (1856-60).

Beijing's quest to recover these looted artefacts, including its intervention at a Paris auction a few years ago, leaves us in no doubt of the importance Beijing places on recovering them, another manifestation of its desire to reassert China's greatness.

That Chan should endorse this campaign may be patriotic, even admirable, but his remarks instead create the impression that he is trying to ingratiate himself with mainland audiences, and, more importantly, with the government whose permission you need for access to them. Restricting the right of protest may be a bad thing, but if Hong Kong does decide to tell its people to shut up, we now know with whom it may begin.