Hong Kong movie star and ardent Chinese government supporter Jackie Chan has expressed his wish to join China’s ruling party.
“I want to become a CPC member,” Chan was quoted as saying, using the initials for Communist Party of China.
His support for the party and the People’s Liberation Army is a far cry from the summer days of 1989, when he publicly backed pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that were brutally crushed by the Chinese military.
But in the years since, Chan has gravitated toward the Chinese government as mainland China’s economy took off and grew into a lucrative market for singers and actors in Hong Kong as well as companies overseas.
“I can see the greatness of the Communist Party, and it will deliver what it says and what it promises in less than 100 years,” Chan reportedly said last week at a symposium celebrating the centennial of the party’s founding.
The Chinese Communist Party has 95 million members, mostly elites. If Chan does decide to apply for membership, the party is likely to “look favorably” on his application, thanks to his celebrity status and long-standing relationship with officials, said John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Being born in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, also gives Chan a leg up, Lee told VICE World News.
“The party is also keen to make the point that Hong Kong is inevitably being integrated into the mainland, so granting membership to a high-profile figure like Jackie Chan would strongly support their narrative,” Lee said.
Chan’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The movie star’s willingness to join the party wouldn’t be a surprise to people who have paid attention to his politics. In 2009, Chan famously said that Hong Kong was “too free” and he “wasn’t sure freedom was a good thing.”
Last year, Chan backed Beijing’s move to impose a national security law on Hong Kong that has since led to the shutdown of the city’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper and the arrests and jailing of the bulk of the territory’s political opposition.
But even in mainland China, some people have expressed reservations about welcoming the movie star into the party. “His patriotism and dedication to China is nothing new, but his personal life and problems are a huge problem,” remarked one user of Weibo social media site, a comment that was echoed by many others.
In 2014, Chan’s son, Jaycee Chan, was arrested in a high-profile drug bust in Beijing and subsequently jailed for six months. While he was not implicated, Jackie Chan’s reputation took a hit.
As far as Beijing is concerned, Chan’s star power may not do much to bolster the party’s image as it once would have, said Stanley Rosen, a political science professor at the University of Southern California. “If he had been asked to join the CCP earlier, I’m sure he would have, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter anymore,” Rosen told VICE World News.
“His global standing these days isn’t too high and above all, he’s no longer cool – certainly not in Hong Kong. The Communist Party’s image is already strong among many mainland youth; they certainly do not need Jackie Chan.”
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