John Wick star Donnie Yen’s invite to present at the Oscars sparks backlash
John Wick star Donnie Yen’s invite to present at the 2023 Oscars has triggered backlash over his support for the Chinese Communist Party and their brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
A Change.org petition calling for Yen, who was recently cast alongside Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4, to be removed from the upcoming Academy Awards over his outspoken allegiance to the controversial Chinese President Xi Jinping. It has gained over 20,000 signatures.
The petition was created by ‘a group of people from Hong Kong,’ according to a letter addressed to the Oscars Committee, who said Yen’s remarks in support of China’s communist government ‘violate the 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 is known for his roles in Star Wars: Rogue One and Mulan, landed in hot water in after speaking out against demonstrators protesting against the Chinese government Hong Kong in 2019. In a recent GQ article, he doubled down on his position and said ‘It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot.’
The actor was raised in Hong Kong for part of his childhood, and in 2020 drew backlash from many after making a Facebook post fondly commemorating the anniversary of the region becoming a part of China, and recalling playing piano in front of President Xi at concert celebrating the event.
Donnie Yen alongside Keanu Reeves. The two are starring together in John Wick: Chapter 4
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yen has expressed support for him over the years
The petition creators described Yen as ‘an actor who supports the Chinese Communist Party’s violation of human rights,’ and said the Oscars awards would be condoning his stance if they allowed him to speak.
‘As a globally recognized film award, the Oscars should represent respect for human rights and moral values, rather than support for actions that violate them.’
‘Donnie Yen is a supporter of the Chinese Communist regime and has made several remarks in support of the Chinese government’s policies, including supporting the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong and accusing Hong Kong protesters of being rioters,’ the petition read.
‘These remarks 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.’
The letter said that selecting Yen to speak at the awards showed ‘contempt’ for Hong Kong, and also undermined its people in the global perspective.
‘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.’
‘We demand that the Oscars Committee reconsider this decision and cancel the invitation of Donnie Yen as a presenter for the Oscars,’ it concluded. ‘Let us work together to uphold human rights and moral values, and make the Oscars a truly respectful award.’
Yen recalls meeting President Xi during a celebration of Hong Kong becoming a part of China
Demonstrators protesting oppressive laws imposed on Hong Kong by China in 2019
Donnie Yen is known for for appearing in Mulan (above) and Star Wars: Rogue One
In the GQ article published last month, Yen dismissed the 2019 demonstrators.
‘I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it,’ he said. ‘But my own experience, like, I was there, 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.’
During the protests, demonstrators thronged to the streets to march against a number of oppressive laws enacted by the Hong Kong and Chinese government.
The protests were met with violent suppression by China, and led to the arrests of thousands.
In the midst of the protests, Yen drew Ire for making an effusive post about the anniversary of Hong Kong joining China, and recalled playing piano at a a commemorative concert where President Xi was in the audience.
‘Today is the celebration day for Hong Kong returned to motherland China 23 years,’ he wrote. ‘Recalling such memorable night in 2017 where I had the privilege to performed with piano Mastro Lang Lang for Chairman Xi and wife along with several hundred guests who came to watch the show and celebrated the night!’
Yen included a picture of him meeting Xi on stage after the performance.