Why hypocritical Jackie Chan’s empty confessions deserve no sympathy
- Yes, the actor had a painful childhood, but why has he visited on his own daughter the abandonment and trauma he experienced then?
- Worst of all in Hongkongers’ eyes is his rejection of the city’s core values as he bends over backwards to embrace Beijing’s ‘patriotic’ agenda
Jackie Chan might be the most famous Chinese person alive, playing the righteous action hero fighting villains in countless films that have put Hong Kong on the world map.
But the actor’s changing political stances and his failure to stand up for the interests of the city that brought him fame and fortune make him a hypocrite in the eyes of many Hongkongers.
Worst of all is Chan’s decision to feed children he doesn’t know, through his donations to Unicef, instead of providing for his estranged daughter Etta Ng Chok-lam. He has forced her to inherit the abandonment and trauma he experienced during his own childhood, which he outlines in his latest memoir, Never Grow Up .
Chan makes many honest confessions in the memoir – which was first published in Chinese in 2015 – and describes a quite painful childhood: he was removed from formal education at a young age and sent to the China Drama Academy, a boarding school where he faced strict discipline and physical punishment.
He also admits many failings, such as excessive drinking and drink driving, visiting prostitutes and gambling, as well as physically abusing the son he had with his wife, Taiwanese actress Joan Lin Feng-jiao.
While many have commended Chan for acknowledging his mistakes and he is earning sympathy in some quarters, don’t forget that Chan is hardly owning up to them. In the memoir he mentions a “serious mistake” he made in 1999, referring to the affair he had with actress Elaine Ng, but doesn’t even find the courage to print her name in the book.
He also fails to mention Etta, the illegitimate daughter he had with Ng. It has been widely reported that he has never had contact with Etta, who ran away from home, came out as a lesbian last year and recently married her girlfriend in Canada. As an adult and a parent, Chan put this innocent child through unnecessary suffering.
What truly angers many Hongkongers is the way Chan bends over backwards to please Beijing with “patriotic” statements that go against the core values of his native Hong Kong.
In 1989, he appeared to present himself as a hero for democracy at the height of the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, leading a marathon concert supporting the pro-democracy movement at the time.
But fast forward to post-handover Hong Kong and democracy is apparently a dirty word for Chan. “If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic,” he told the Boao Forum for Asia in 2009 of the city’s protests against Beijing’s interference in local affairs. “With too much freedom, we become like Hong Kong and Taiwan, such huge messes. I’m beginning to think that Chinese people need to be controlled.”
His love for the country paid off in 2013 when he was appointed a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a national political advisory body. His patriotic stance has also made him a wealthy man. He fights foreign villains in movies that echo the Chinese government’s “Chinese dream” narrative, such as Railroad Tigers (2016), Kung Fu Yoga (2017) and The Foreigner (2017), which together took 3 billion yuan (US$460 million) at the Chinese box office.
In August Forbes reported that he was the world’s fifth highest-paid star in 2018.
His blind support for the Chinese Communist Party is too much even for some internet users in China, one of whom labelled him “Hong Kong’s most famous shill” in response to a photo he posted in 2013 on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, praising the blue skies of Beijing.
With great power comes great responsibility. Chan’s fame and wealth have certainly given him the ability to make a difference, but his actions are at odds with the values of Hong Kong, and his empty confessions deserve no sympathy.
Perhaps people simply expected too much of Jackie Chan, who, as the title of his memoir suggests, has never grown up.