Nicole Kidman has come under criticism in Hong Kong for flying into the city to make a TV series depicting the privileged life of American expatriates—and getting exempted from quarantine.
The 54-year-old Hollywood star was seen boarding a private jet in Sydney last Thursday to go to Hong Kong, where she would work on drama series Expats.
But unlike other international travelers, who have to stay in designated quarantine hotels upon arrival, Kidman was spotted shopping at a clothing store and working in Hong Kong’s densely populated areas, even as Sydney is recording its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
In a Thursday statement about Kidman’s travel, the Hong Kong government said the filming crew were exempt from quarantine “for the purpose of performing designated professional work, taking into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”
The government said the crew were required to get tested for COVID-19, stick with their work-related itineraries and avoid public transport. It’s unclear how many people in the crew were allowed to skip quarantine.
The drama series, based on author Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel The Expatriates, is being produced by Kidman’s Blossom Films, and will premiere on Amazon Prime Video. The Hong Kong-born author attended an international school in the city before going to Harvard University.
Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios, said in 2018 that the story “weaves an addictive tapestry that follows a group of complex women and their lives as outsiders in Hong Kong,” according to a Deadline report.
“It’s a compelling exploration of the strength of these women as they persevere through struggles with marriage, career, parenting and unimaginable loss,” Salke said.
The story has also been ridiculed on social media for being insensitive to the dwindling freedoms in Asian financial center after Beijing imposed a national security law last year to crack down on pro-democracy protests. Prominent activists have been jailed or forced into exile, while many young people are frustrated with the future of their home city.
The arts community has complained of growing self-censorship. This year, the Hong Kong government enacted new rules to allow authorities to censor films perceived to be endangering national security.
“While outspoken expats need to flee, expats not asking questions will have greater privileges than before,” Ho-fung Hung, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, wrote on Twitter. “They need to showcase HK is still ‘international’ and ‘open’.”
Expats’ director Lulu Wang, known for directing The Farewell starring Awkwafina, said in an interview with IndieWire in May 2020 that she was concerned about the protests in Hong Kong causing safety issues for the crew.
International travelers are required to stay in designated quarantine hotels for at least seven days before tightened rules come into effect on Friday. Starting Friday, visitors from Australia will be required to quarantine for 21 days.
According to Hong Kong law, the government could exempt travelers from the quarantine if their entry is deemed necessary for the city’s “normal operation,” public health or economic development.
Previously, the government proposed to exempt senior bankers working in the city from full quarantine requirements. That plan was paused three weeks after its proposal.
The Hong Kong athletes who returned from the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month after winning a triumphant record of six medals complied with the normal quarantine rules.