Celebrities supporting Hong Kong protests face blowback

Celebrities supporting Hong Kong protests face blowback
A Hong Kong pro-democracy protester holds an umbrella in front of police guarding Government House after a march from the Admiralty protest site on Oct. 22. (Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

Will actors Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung and dozens of other celebrities who have spoken out in support of Hong Kong's democracy protests face career blowback in mainland China for voicing their views?

Apple Daily and other Hong Kong-based publications that have been supportive of the demonstrations reported this week that Chinese propaganda officials have drawn up a list of 47 such stars and ordered state-owned mainland Chinese media outlets to keep their names out of the press.


An employee at one state-run publication in Beijing said she was aware of the list but had no further details. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to the media.

Reports of the blacklist come a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech saying he believes that art should serve the people and socialism.

Addressing a group of renowned authors, actors, scriptwriters and dancers in Beijing last Wednesday, he called on artists to produce more works that "disseminate contemporary Chinese values."

Time will tell whether celebrities who have spoken out in support of Hong Kong's "Occupy Central" movement will be officially shut out of the mainland. But some mainlanders are already calling on fans to take measures into their own hands and boycott the films, TV shows and songs of such artists.

On Wednesday, "Pro-Occupy Central artists get out of mainland China" was one of the hottest topics on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media service. More than 4.6 million users had commented on the subject.

Some said Hong Kong artists have been "too spoiled" by fans on the mainland, whose entertainment market has exploded in recent years and now dwarfs those of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"We should save our dignity and not offer them more work! They have said they didn't need our money! We mainland have so many gorgeous actors, we don't need to look at their faces and be scolded like idiots while they make money out of our pockets. We shouldn't spoil them anymore!" wrote one user.

Others said they felt hurt and betrayed, saying Hong Kongers had failed to show gratitude to the mainland.

"How much money did mainland China offer to rescue Hong Kong during the economic recession? All other Western countries didn't have the energy to care for you, who else would help you like us? When you created trouble and acted like a kid, your country will tolerate you like a parent, but if you upset your country, your parent will discipline you."

Almost 100,000 Weibo users participated in an unscientific poll, which asked: "Which way would you choose to boycott these unscrupulous artists?" Over 66% of respondents said they would "never watch/listen to the pro-Occupy Central artists' works."

It's not just on the mainland that pro-Occupy Central stars are taking heat. Jing Wong, a Hong Kong film director, wrote on his Weibo page that he would no longer work with three artists who have strongly supported the protests: actors Anthony Wong and Chapman To and singer Denise Ho.

(To, as well as Chow Yun-fat, appeared in Jing Wong's 2014 film "From Vegas to Macao"; curiously, the director did not say he would refuse to work with Chow from now on.)

"I have never paid much attention to politics, I'm not even a voter. But my wife and I have decided to register to vote. Let's vote to chase these traitors out, we cannot let them poison HK anymore!" he wrote.

As for Anthony Wong, Chapman To and Denise Ho, the director added: "I respect that you have your own political opinions. But I do not agree with you. Your contacts will be deleted from my computers and cell phones."


Denise Ho has appeared regularly at Occupy Central rallies. On Tuesday night, she addressed the crowd after student protest leaders held talks with government officials; the dialogue yielded no immediate breakthroughs.

"We should not be disappointed by the fact that talks with the officials still can't bring us true democracy, but full of hope that we have such amazing students who fight for our future," she said.

Ho's name was among the 47 on the supposed blacklist circulating this week. Others on the list included actors Tony Leung and Nick Cheung, lyricist Albert Leung, singer-actress Karena Lam, and singer Deserts Xuan.

Chow Yun-fat earned the nickname "non-governmental chief executive" after he gave an interview to Apple Daily on Oct. 1 criticizing police for using tear gas against demonstrators in late September.

"The police were wrong the first day. Hong Kong residents will be very offended if the government continues to treat the students with violence," he said. "I'm moved by the students and civilians, they are very brave to pursue their demands. [Hong Kong Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying shouldn't avoid the problem."

Meanwhile, actor Anthony Wong strongly condemned the Hong Kong government and police on his Facebook account last month, writing: "What have the protesters damaged? What have they burnt? Whom have they killed? Why do you use ... tear gas? If there is a riot, what would you use? Aircrafts? Cannons? Tyranny?"

Chapman To, another Hong Kong actor well-known for being outspoken about social issues, also left furious messages on his Facebook page. "Leung Chun-ying, you will have to pay a big price for today," he wrote.

But Jing Wong is not alone among Hong Kong celebrities in declaring his opposition to the democracy protesters.

Jackie Chan spoke out against Occupy Central on his Weibo account on Oct. 11: "There cannot be a prosperous home without a powerful country," he said. "Love our country and love our Hong Kong."

Nicole Liu and Sean Silbert in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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