Jackie Chan 'freedom' comments spark widespread ire
Tue, Apr 21, 2009

by Guy Newey

HONG KONG, April 21, 2009 (AFP) - The backlash over comments by Jackie Chan that Chinese people "need to be controlled" escalated Tuesday with everyone from academics to politicians censuring the Hong Kong film star.

One group on social networking site Facebook even called for the martial arts legend to be exiled to North Korea.

Chan, best-known for his comic action movies, told an annual meeting of governments and business leaders on Saturday China should be wary of allowing too many freedoms.

"I don't know whether it is better to have freedom or to have no freedom," numerous mainland news websites quoted Chan as saying at the Boao Forum for Asia.

"With too much freedom... it can get very chaotic, could end up like in Hong Kong or like in Taiwan... I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled."

Hong Kong Tourism Board, for whom Chan has been an ambassador since 1995, said they had received at least 17 complaints about Chan's comments and were examining possible action.

"We are still investigating the terms of his appointment but no decision has been made yet," a spokeswoman told AFP.

A group of mainland Chinese academics and media professionals wrote an open letter calling Chan the "spoiled brat" of the Chinese race.

"You are born in Hong Kong, a free Hong Kong which provides you with excellent conditions to become an internationally renowned martial arts star," the letter said.

"You are now the cream of the crop, and yet you don't know the importance of freedom."

In Taiwan, several angry members of a youth group protested outside Chan's office in Taipei, calling for a boycott of his movies.

Cheng Wen-tsang, spokesman for Taiwan's pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), dismissed Chan's comments.

"In his mind, there's no such thing as democracy. He likes to be enslaved. That was why he said Chinese need to be controlled," he told reporters.

Chan five years ago enraged supporters of then-Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian by describing the 2004 presidential election as "the biggest joke in the world".

Netizens set up at least two groups on the social networking site Facebook attacking Chan and calling for a boycott of his movies.

One group, with more than 3,100 members, said Chan should be sent to North Korea.

In the other group, called "F!@# Jackie Chan", members vented their fury.

"Freedom gave him money, fame, and the position he is in now. He will not be international star if (he) was playing propaganda movies... We need a hero, not a clown," said a netizen calling himself Mark Li, from Oregon.

Even the man tipped as Hong Kong's next chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, was drawn into the row.

Leung said the city's residents enjoyed more freedom than most but did not abuse that freedom, local broadcaster RTHK reported.

Hong Kong University's students' union also condemned Chan's comments and called for an apology.

"We... condemn the degrading and patronising suggestion that Chinese people need to be controlled," the union's executive committee said in a statement issued late Monday.

Despite repeated requests, Chan's manager Solon So, was not available for comment.

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