Artists speak out on South China Sea: Watch what you don't say

July 14, 2016 18:15
Wong Cho-nam (L) rushed a Weibo post to express his support for Beijing on the South China Sea issue. Jackie Chan (C) was criticized for not doing the same thing. Charlene Choi (R) said she doesn’t need to say 'I love my country' everyday.

A group of Hong Kong movie and TV celebrities wasted no time weighing in on the decision by an international tribunal to shoot down China's claims to disputed waters in the South China Sea.

They are using their star power to drive a People’s Daily post called “China -- not a single dot less” through social media.

As expected, the viral post is stirring up a lot of controversy.

And why not, if it came from the likes of model Angelababy, “Ip Man” Donnie Yen, comedian Wong Cho-nam and wife Leanne Li (who both regularly work in China) and singer Hins Cheung (who posted a map of Red China that includes Hong Kong, Taiwan and the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands)?

Beijing quickly rejected Tuesday's ruling by The Hague tribunal that these two islands in China's “nine dash line”, stretching hundreds of miles south and east from Hainan, don't belong to China by any historical argument.

Beijing has regarded the two islands as part of its sovereignty for centuries.

It's not uncommon for local artists to express their views on current events given the freedom of speech Hong Kong enjoys.

But many mainlanders think they are not patriotic enough when they comment on issues other than China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. 

So when movie star Jackie Chan posted his new production on Weibo, he was criticized for "clowning around" when China just lost a major international battle.

Ditto Charlene Choi from the popular duo Twins for posting work photos while staying mum on an important matter.

Choi hit back, saying “I love my country but do I need to say it every hour?”

She went on to say everyone has a role "which makes our country stronger" but that it's different "if you just talk about being strong”.

Still, it puts people like her in a no-win situation whichever way the argument goes. 

Doesn't this remind us of the Chinese saying that in a crossfire, you can get shot even with your head down (躺着也中槍)?

More than at any other time, artists in Hong Kong and Taiwan have to be careful about what they say -- and what they don't say.

Early this year, Taiwan teen pop star Chou Tzu-yu was forced to apologize after she waved the Taiwanese flag in a promotional photo.

Ironically, the apology, which came on the eve of Taiwan’s presidential election in January, helped the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party win a landslide.

Canto pop singer Kay Tse, a supporter of the civil disobedience group Occupy Central, cancelled a 10-city mainland tour after Anna Chan, convenor of the pro-establishment group Caring Hong Kong Power, complained to the mainland organizer.

Then there is Lancome, which abruptly shut down a mini-concert by activist Denise Ho over her controversial political views.

Now the ball is in Jackie Chan’s court. People are waiting to hear what he has to say, but does he have to say anything?

-- Contact us at [email protected]


An EJ Insight contributor