Still a beloved Hong Kong movie hero after all these years
(unlike too many others)
As regular readers of this blog should know, I'm a long time fan of Hong Kong movies whose love of Hong Kong movies got me loving Hong Kong too. So negative Hong Kong movie-related news can hit me harder than most and by this, I'd include reports of Hong Kong movie luminaries professing greater love for China (and, let's face it, money by extension) than their home city.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a Variety article listing who decided to publicly celebrate the Chinese Communist Party's anniversary. Some of my fellow Hong Kong movie fans -- particularly, it seems, those living overseas -- reacted with shock and horror to the report who listed a plethora of big names among the celebrants. If truth be told, I actually didn't react as strongly because the vast majority of those on the list have long been known -- or, at the very least, suspected -- to be "blue" (i.e., pro-Beijing). Yes, even Andy Lau, Chow Yun-fat and Wong Kar-wai, never mind Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan.
At the same time though, I must say that the Hong Kong native who moved his base years ago to Beijing -- even while being on the record as being Australian -- really does continue to plumb new lows. More specifically, earlier this week, the most reviled actor in Hong Kong declared on Chinese TV that he wanted to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and declared that "I think the Chinese Communist Party is really just so great".
However, those pro-Beijingers who are applauding and celebrating Jackie Chan's proclamation might want to think twice after realizing that he is notorious for bad luck befalling brands associated with him (with a few not only losing money but ending up filing for bankruptcy and shutting up shop). So should the CCP's fortunes start going downhill at some point in the not too distant future, it should know who and what to blame: the curse of Jackie Chan!
If only Jackie Chan would start openly allying himself with the Carrie Lam administration and/or those charged with making sure that China's national security law for Hong Kong is applied to movies, among other things. First, a recap: Back on June 11th, it was announced that Hong Kong movies can be deemed threats to national security and subject to censorship on those grounds. While that's bad enough, consider the following declaration made yesterday by Commerce Secretary Edward Yau: "The filmmakers cannot claim that the film has received the go-ahead from the film censors as a defence against prosecution. Say, there is an activity in breach of the national security law, that's still punishable under the national security law."
Put another way: It appears that films that make it through Hong Kong's censorship checks may still be deemed to breach the national security law! Put yet another way (because it all can seem rather bizarre and confusing): "When they censor your film, you will be refered to police and charged with conspiracy to subvert. If they let you show the film, you will be charged with committing subversion."
The sense I am getting is that the authorities want to frighten filmmakers -- and, for that matter, film distributors and cinema operators -- into not daring to make a film that looks like it is critical of the government or represents the kind of society and culture that Hong Kong has hitherto been! At the very least, there will never be another film like Ten Years made. Speaking of which: take a look at the image in this Tweet and be awed once again at how incredibly prescient that 2015 Hong Kong movie's makers were.
I realize it's easier said than done but I think Hong Kong filmmakers, film distributors and cinema operators would do well to read Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. In particular, Lesson #1 in the book is one that I think would be helpful for them to take on board in their current circumstance: i.e., "Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do."
Finally, a reminder that today is the fourth anniversary of the death of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiabo. A few days ago, a friend pronounced me an idealist. There are days when I wish I could be an optimist too. For if I were, I could, like that true Chinese patriot did in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, be able to confidently declare the following: "I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become.a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme."