26 October 2016
Movie director Wong Jing (right, in black suit) appears unfazed by a campaign to boycott his latest offering. So far only a few seats have been sold (red squares, inset) in advance bookings in cinemas in Mong Kok and Taikoo Shing. Photos: CNSA, Facebook
Movie director Wong Jing (right, in black suit) appears unfazed by a campaign to boycott his latest offering. So far only a few seats have been sold (red squares, inset) in advance bookings in cinemas in Mong Kok and Taikoo Shing. Photos: CNSA, Facebook

Why is there a boycott drive against Wong Jing’s latest movie?

Hong Kong is a free economy. You can do whatever you like, buy anything you want or go anyplace as long as it is within the bounds of law. No one can force you to do or not to do anything.

But recently, some internet users are encouraging Hong Kong people not to watch the latest movie directed by outspoken director Wong Jing in a bid to show their anger at the filmmaker’s pro-Beijing political stance, as well as the Hong Kong people’s solidarity in the face of what they consider as China’s growing assertiveness in interfering in local affairs.

More than 5,000 internet users have joined a Facebook community page called “Hong Kong people dare to boycott Wong Jing“.

The page accuses Wong of attacking Hong Kong people to show his loyalty and devotion to Beijing authorities. The page urges people to stand up and say no to Wong’s “rubbish movie”.

The organizers of the boycott campaign are referring to Wong’s latest movie “From Vegas to Macau 3″, which will open in Hong Kong cinemas on Friday.

Many internet users are closely monitoring the advance ticket sales in various cinemas that will screen the movie, to see whether the boycott call is having any impact.

Based on the advance bookings, the movie doesn’t seem to be doing very well. Several theaters have not sold any seats for some screenings, while some of the most popular cinemas were only able to sell less than 10 tickets.

All in all, advance sales account for less than 30 percent of available seats in selected cinemas across the city for Friday and Saturday.

But it’s still too early to say the boycott campaign has been a success, considering that most moviegoers prefer to just go to cinema without any advance booking.

So whether the boycott is success or not will be reflected in the actual box office figures to be released by producers and distributors of the movie.

For his part, Wong appears unfazed by the campaign. After all, Hong Kong just represents 1/25 of China’s total box office sales, he remarked.

“Last year there was a similar boycott call, but my movie still ranked first in the box office,” Wong said.

The coming Lunar New Year is considered one of the most important periods for the Hong Kong movie market. 

It has been a tradition for Hong Kong people to go out with their families and friends to enjoy the holidays, and one of the activities they want to do is watch comedy and feel-good movies in the cinema.

During last year’s Lunar New Year, Wong’s “From Vegas to Macau 2″ earned HK$14 million in the box office in just four days, ranking third on the list of top-grossing films.

Starring Chow Yun-fat, “From Vegas to Macau 3″ could prove to be another top grosser for the season, given the enormous popularity of the lead actor.

Supporters of the boycott campaign, mostly youngsters, could only hope to exert minimal pressure on the movie’s box office. Many people can readily separate Wong’s political stance from his movies.

Wong’s negative comments about Hong Kong cannot stop movie lovers from watching his latest offering.

But although the film director himself remains unfazed, other quarters appear to be worrying about the possible impact of the boycott campaign.

Cinema operators are giving away free tickets on their social media fan page.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has reserved a huge bulk of tickets to be resold to the community at a price of just HK$25 each, a discount of more than 50 percent to the original price of HK$70.

That should help fill the empty seats in cinemas in case the boycott campaign gains massive support.

Many Hong Kong people have been shocked by Wong’s transformation from a movie director with no clear political leanings into a rabid Beijing supporter.

In 2012, he wrote a glowing tribute to student leader Joshua Wong on his Weibo page, praising him for his militant advocacy of student rights as founder of the student activist group Scholarism.

But during the Occupy civil disobedience campaign, Wong Jing’s political stance appeared to have changed overnight.

When Joshua Wong was arrested at the height of the protests in November 2014, the student leader complained that police officers tried to injure him in the groin. Wong Jing remarked on social media: “Is it because his penis is too small police couldn’t locate it?”

Since then, the movie director has been making rabid comments against the opposition camp. He also said unlike his generation in the 1980s, today’s youth are wallowing in failure.

In the Greater China region, Wong Jing is not the first one in the entertainment sector to display loyalty to Beijing authorities.

Many artists and directors would rather not make comments about politics, even if the issues affect their lives and the future of their city, and would even declare their support to the central authorities in order to protect their interests in the world’s biggest market.

In Taiwan, Huang An, a singer from the 1990s, made use of every opportunity to slam fellow artists who are not showing their patriotism to China.

Huang even assailed a 16-year old Taiwanese singer, Chou Tzu-Yu, after she was caught on camera holding a Taiwan national flag, accusing her of supporting calls for the island’s independence.

His comments sparked outrage in Taiwan and a boycott of his songs and video products. Many called for the removal of his songs from karaoke systems and record bars, and said he was not welcome to come back to the island.

It is said that the Chou incident also resulted in a landslide victory for the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in the elections last month.

In the case of Wong Jing, many people could not understand his change of political stance. Was it because of the success of his movies in the mainland? 

The simple fact is that China’s authoritarian regime does not tolerate dissent, and if you are an artist who enjoys success in the mainland, it would be better for you to toe the line for the sake of your career. 

So the only possible explanation is that Wong wants to show his loyalty to the Communist Party regime in order to ensure his success in the China market.

The boycott campaign against Wong’s movie is the result of that perception among Hong Kong people.

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EJ Insight writer

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