Donnie Yen: Thousands sign petition to remove Oscars presenter over his support for the Chinese government

Thousands of people from Hong Kong have signed a petition to have actor Donnie Yen removed as an Oscar presenter due to his support for the Chinese government.

The petition says that the 59-year-old actor’s latest remarks over protests in Hong Kong in 2019 “violate the spirit of freedom of speech”.

Hong Kong activist Tong Wai-hung, who set up the petition, also claims that the Academy’s invitation to Yen shows “contempt for the people of Hong Kong” and his presence will “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.

In an interview with GQ last month, Yen reiterated his opposition to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

“It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot. 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.”

Tong told VICE that “[Yen] made it clear he wants to use films as a medium to tell positive stories of China and Hong Kong”.

“He’s helping to whitewash the Chinese regime,” he said.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Yen is credited by many for contributing to the popularisation of Wing Chun in China.

Wing Chun is a concept-based fighting art, a form of Southern Chinese kung fu, and a close-quarters system of self-defense.

Yen portrays Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the Ip Man film series, which has garnered box office success and led to an increase in the number of people taking up Wing Chun, with hundreds of new Wing Chun schools being opened up in mainland China and other parts of Asia.

The actor also gained international recognition for playing Chirrut Îmwe in Rogue One and Xiang in XXX: Return of Xander Cage, as well as Commander Tung in Mulan and Caine in John Wick: Chapter 4.

Yen was named as a presenter for the 95th Academy Awards last week. The ceremony is set to take place at in Los Angeles on Sunday (12 March).