An online petition opposing martial arts movie star Donnie Yen presenting an award at the Oscars was published last week and had garnered over 90,000 signatures as of Thursday. The petitioners accuse Yen of supporting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The petition was started by well-known Hong Kong activist Tong Wai-Hung. The text posted on Change.org claims that Yen made “several remarks in support of the Chinese government's policies” and called Hong Kong protesters “rioters” back in 2019.
Tong states that “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.” Therefore, the petition urges the Oscars to cancel Yen’s appearance at the ceremony, currently scheduled for March 13.
Donnie Yen, 59, is an action movie star, known for playing Ip Man, the teacher of martial arts movie legend Bruce Lee, in the eponymous series of films between 2008 and 2019. His American filmography includes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4.
In a February interview with GQ, Yen stated that he was “proudly Chinese” and was also critical of the Western media for being focused on negative stories about his homeland while ignoring the progress Beijing has made. The article also mentioned that Yen’s “patriotism can get him into trouble.”
The magazine quotes the actor as saying of the 2019 events in Hong Kong: “It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot.” Yen further said that he did not want to get political, but was speaking from his own experience and from that of those he knew in the territory.
Demonstrations took place in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, protesting the local government’s introduction of a new extradition bill allowing Beijing to secure the transfer of people from the autonomous region who are accused of violating Chinese laws. However, it soon turned into a wider movement that demanded democratic reforms and possible independence from China.
The effort to replace Yen comes as Everything Everywhere All at Once, a movie with a primarily Asian cast, is considered a favorite to win multiple awards at the Oscars. The film has garnered 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Female lead Michelle Yeoh is poised to take Best Actress for her performance. Yeoh and Yen have been frequent co-stars since the 90s.