More than 40,000 people have signed a Change.org petition as of Monday afternoon, demanding that the Oscars rescind its invite to Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen as a presenter, citing concerns over his past remarks denouncing the 2019 pro-democracy protests and his apparent support of the Chinese Communist Party.
Yen, who stars in the upcoming installment of John Wick, is set to be one of the presenters at the Oscars ceremony on March 12.
“We strongly condemn this decision, which not only shows contempt for the people of Hong Kong but also provokes the global public,” the petition said. “If the Oscars Committee continues to invite such a person as a guest presenter, it will damage the image and reputation of the film industry and cause serious harm to human rights and moral values.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not immediately respond to Semafor’s request for comment.
The petitioners called Yen a “a supporter of the Chinese Communist regime,” adding that his previous comments supporting Hong Kong’s National Security Law — draconian legislation that essentially bans any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party — “not only violate the spirit of freedom of speech but also deny the rights of the people of Hong Kong to fight for their freedom and democracy.”
Yen, who gained international recognition for starring in movies like Rogue One and the live-action remake of Mulan, doubled down on his criticism of the 2019 Hong Kong protests in a February GQ Magazine article promoting John Wick: Chapter 4.
“It wasn’t a protest, OK, it was a riot,” Yen said. “I have many friends who were there. I don’t want to get political. A lot of people might not be happy for what I’m saying, but I’m speaking from my own experience.”
Born in Guangzhou, China, Yen spent part of his childhood in Hong Kong, eventually becoming one of the city’s best known action stars. In 2017, he gave up his U.S. citizenship and reportedly said he was “100% Chinese.”
This past weekend, Yen served as one of the Hong Kong delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, the country’s top political advisory body’s yearly meeting. There, he told reporters about the prospects of the Chinese film industry.
“Chinese action movies are becoming fewer,” Yen said. “We need to attract investment and boost demand, so that more filmmakers can develop action movies and make more movies that can become the pride of China.”
Yen follows in the footsteps of other major martial arts stars, like Jackie Chan, who have cozied up to Beijing over the past few years. Both have expressed support of a singular Chinese-Hong Kong identity, leading many Hong Kongers to boycott some of the stars’ movies in recent years.
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