Sublime and Beautiful

Who Gave the Clown a Mic?

Posted in Uncategorized by chaoren on April 23, 2009

Courtesy of

In case you haven’t heard by now, Chinese action star Jackie Chan made a complete fool of himself at last weekend’s Boao Forum for Asia in Boao on China’s island province of Hainan. While participating as a panelist in one of the forum’s discussions entitled “Imagine Asia: Tapping into Asia’s Creative-Industry Potential,” the martial arts legend was asked about censorship in China (hardly a surprise considering that Chan’s latest film “Shinjuku Incident” was banned in China). Chan didn’t respond with the superior incisiveness one would expect from a speaker at a world-renowned international forum that draws current and former heads of state as guests and orators. Instead, Chan made a gross display of pandering to China’s authoritarian government, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), in which he insulted Chinese the world over. He questioned the merits of freedom saying, “I’m not sure if it is good to have freedom or not […] If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.” Then, as if he hadn’t fully expressed his allegiance to his CPC shepherd, Chan deepened his disgrace by stating, “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

Now I’m a big proponent of free speech, and I would never suggest that Mr. Chan not be allowed to speak his mind. However, I don’t think someone like him should be invited to speak at an event like the Boao Forum that deals with serious subjects of which his opinion is of no real value. Sure, Chan attended the forum under the guise of businessman. He is, after all, an entrepreneur and the Vice Chairman of the China Film Association, as was noted in the event program. But Chan is far from a world business leader, and any sort of substantive contributions he could make to discussions about the entertainment industry would be (and were as we saw) precluded by his interest in maintaining good relations with the CPC. Chan likes attention; he also likes doing business. Losing an audience and market like China by crossing the CPC is something Chan would never do. He is a spokesman for the government of Hong Kong, a major face of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a huge donor to last spring’s Beichuan, Sichuan earthquake relief effort, and founder of two charitable organizations that operate in Hong Kong and mainland China. Clearly, Chan has invested a lot in his image as a patriot. Moreover, Chan has invested a great deal in his business ventures in China. He has a clothing line, restaurants, and fitness clubs to look out for. On top of all of this, Chan has his main business to protect: namely, filmmaking. China is a growing market for movies and Chan wants a piece of the action. Even with all of his patriotism he hasn’t been able to guarantee that all of his films will be shown in the mainland. So, when confronted with questions about censorship, arguably the single most important issue facing the Chinese entertainment industry today, how can anyone expect Chan not to parrot Communist drivel?

There is no excusing Chan’s comments–a fact the star may soon learn as he confronts outraged Chinese calling for boycotts against his films and live performances. He should be ashamed of having slandered his people in order to duck a sticky question and win favor with the CPC. However, the organizers of the Boao Forum should have used better judgment when selecting speakers for their event. Chan had no business speaking at the forum.

Hopefully some good comes of Chan’s reprehensible behavior. At the very least, the man ought to learn that he should be guided by morals, not the self-serving rhetoric of an authoritarian regime.