Nearly 100,000 people have signed a petition protesting Donnie Yen, who stars opposite Keanu Reeves in the upcoming John Wick 4 movie, from presenting an award at this year’s Oscars over the Hong Kong actor’s support for the Chinese government.
The petition on Change.org is addressed directly to the Oscars committee and was started by “a group of people from Hong Kong”. It is titled “Cancel inviting an actor Donnie Yen as a presenter for the Oscars” and has 97,268 signatures at the time of writing.
The BBC understands the petition was started by the well-known Hong Kong activist Tong Wai-hung. It claims that the Academy’s invitation for Yen to present an award shows “contempt for the people of Hong Kong”, adding his presence will “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.
The 95th Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday evening.
Yen, 59, recently drew criticism over his reiterated opposition to the Hong Kong protests in 2019, describing them as “a riot”.
“It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot,” he said in an interview with GQ Hype. “I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it. But 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.”
Yen also accused the Western media – naming BBC and CNN specifically – of only reporting negative stories from China and “never mentioning the true side of it”.
Earlier this month, Yen participated in the Two Sessions in Beijing as a Hong Kong delegate. The sessions are the annual meetings of the country’s legislature and top political advisory body and are attended by thousands of representatives from across China.
Yen is a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member. The group attracts members from across society but has no real legislative power.
Born in Guangzhou and raised in Hong Kong, Yen moved to the United States at 11 and gained American citizenship but later renounced it.
The petition against his involvement at the Oscars claims that his comments about the Hong Kong protests “violate the spirit of freedom of speech”. After initially being focused on a new bill that allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China, the protests grew in scope, becoming a wider anti-government movement.
Best known for his role in the Ip Man movies, which have grossed £338 million at the worldwide box office, Yen will next appear in the fourth instalment of the Hollywood John Wick franchise.
On Thursday, he was named presenter ahead of the Oscars, though it remains unclear which award he will present.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is yet to comment on the petition.