Donnie Yen has responded to a petition which called for him to be removed as a presenter at this year’s Oscars due to his support of the Chinese government.
The Hong Kong actor presented the award for best song at the Oscars earlier this month (March 12). Prior to the event, a petition was set up by activist Tong Wai-hung, claiming the actor’s involvement in the show “shows contempt for the people of Hong Kong” and that his presence will “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.
The petition, which accrued over 110,000 signatures, emerged following an interview with Yen where he doubled down on his opposition to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“It wasn’t a protest, ok, it was a riot,” the actor told GQ. “I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it. 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.”
Speaking to Variety in a new interview, Yen addressed the petition directly, saying: “I’m allowed to love my own culture. Love my own country. Why cannot I be patriotic? This whole online cyber-bullying/cancel culture has got to stop.
“You can’t own somebody’s thoughts. And you want to silence them? It’s totally hypocrites.”
The actor, who was born in southern China and moved to Hong Kong at two years old, said he feels “very lucky” in regards to his success: “Every time when I feel like my life has a downturn. Something good happens. And we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Yen stars opposite Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4, where he plays blind assassin Caine. He’s also known for roles in Star Wars spin-off Rogue One, XXX: Return Of Xander Cage and the 2020 live-action remake of Mulan.
The actor is also credited for contributing to the popularisation of Wing Chun, a form of southern Chinese kung fu, in China through his role in the Ip Man film series.