John Wick star Donnie Yen’s invitation to present at the 2023 Oscars has sparked 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 the removal of Yen, who was recently cast alongside Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4, from the upcoming Academy Awards for his outspoken allegiance to controversial Chinese President Xi Jinping. It has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
The petition was drafted by “a group of people from Hong Kong,” according to a letter addressed to the Oscars committee, which said Yen’s comments in support of China’s communist government “contrary to theHe the spirit of freedom of expression, 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 himself in hot water after speaking out against protesters protesting the Chinese government in Hong Kong in 2019. In a recent GQ article, he doubled down on his stance and said, “It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot.”
Growing up in Hong Kong for part of his childhood, the actor received backlash from many in 2020 after he posted a Facebook post commemorating the anniversary of the region being part of China, and recalled playing the piano for President Xi during concert celebration the event.
Donnie Yen next to Keanu Reeves. The two play together in John Wick: Chapter 4
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yen has expressed his support for him over the years
The creators of the petition described Yen as “an actor who supports the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses,” and said the Oscars would endorse his position if they allowed him to speak.
“As a globally recognized film award, the Oscars should stand for 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 comments in support of the policies of the Chinese government, including supporting the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong and accusing protesters in Hong Kong of being rioters” , reads the petition.
“These comments not only violate the spirit of freedom of expression, but also deny the right of the people of Hong Kong to fight for their freedom and democracy.”
The letter said that choosing Yen to speak at the awards showed “contempt” for Hong Kong, and also undermined the people in a global perspective.
“If the Oscar committee continues to invite such a person as a guest presenter, it will damage the image and reputation of the film industry and seriously endanger human rights and moral values.”
“We demand that the Oscars Committee reconsider this decision and cancel Donnie Yen’s invitation to host the Oscars,” it concluded. “Let’s work together to uphold human rights and moral values and make the Oscars a truly respectful accolade.”
Yen recalls meeting President Xi during a celebration of Hong Kong’s accession to China
Protesters protest oppressive laws China imposed on Hong Kong in 2019
Donnie Yen is known for appearing in Mulan (above) and Star Wars: Rogue One
In the GQ article published last month, Yen dismissed the 2019 protesters.
“I’m not going to talk here about how we can change the way people think about it,” he said. “But my own experience, like, I was there, I have a lot of friends who were there. I don’t want to get political. Many people may not like what I say, but I speak from my own experience.’
During the protests, protesters took to the streets en masse to demonstrate against a number of oppressive laws enacted by the governments of Hong Kong and China.
The protests were violently suppressed by China and led to the arrests of thousands.
Amid the protests, Yen attracted Ire for posting a lavish message marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s accession to China, and recalled playing the piano at a memorial concert where President Xi was in the audience.
“Today is the holiday for Hong Kong that has returned to motherland China for 23 years,” he wrote. “I remember such a memorable evening in 2017 where I had the privilege of performing with piano Mastro Lang Lang in front of Chairman Xi and his wife, along with several hundred guests who came to watch the show and celebrate the night!”
Yen added a photo of him meeting Xi on stage after the performance.