Hong Kong star Donnie Yen’s truthful remarks deserve applause
Published: Mar 09, 2023 11:28 PM
Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

Recently, Donnie Yen, or Zhen Zidan, an action movie actor from China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, talked about Asian stereotypes in Hollywood during an interview with a foreign media outlet. He revealed his stance on the 2019 social unrest in Hong Kong. As a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, he also suggested that better policies be introduced to help Chinese action films tell better Chinese stories. His patriotism, upright position and confidence in Chinese culture won him big applause.

Always referring to himself as "100 percent Chinese," Yen was born in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. He moved to Hong Kong at the age of 2 and immigrated to the US when he was 12. However, he gave up his US citizenship in 2010 and became a Chinese citizen again. 

Yen has been starring in action movies for 40 years now. He said that when he was young, he always tried to enter Hollywood to prove himself. Yet in his early years, he always felt upset with his roles, which always had a stereotypical image of a martial arts master with a straight face. In his interview with GQ Hype, he recalled that when he did Blade II as an action choreographer, he had a "horrible time," and that it was "one of the worst times in my careers" as the producer asked him to "wrap up" in "half a day" the intricate martial arts routines that a Hong Kong film would usually shoot over two weeks. 

"I think it's a lack of respect, and a level of not understanding, not appreciating what we do."

But he no longer allows this to happen now. Whenever a new movie comes his way, he will first check if there are scenes that disrespect Chinese culture. In his new movie John Wick Chapter 4, which marked his return to Hollywood after many years, Yen said his role as assassin Caine used to have a name pronounced as Shang or Chang. 

He asked why the name was not more common, and raised questions about the character's costume. Under his influence and thanks to his confidence in Chinese culture, director Chad Stahelski agreed to change the role's name and costume.

In the interview, he also mentioned his amazement at the progress that he has witnessed in his home country during his lifetime. He felt upset that the Western media focuses only on negative stories about China. "The BBC and CNN, they never talk about that. They never mention the true side of it. But I am there."

Yen is absolutely right and, as a member of the Chinese political advisory body, he knows that he bears the responsibility to voice his views. Yen's films have been loved by fans all over the world for demonstrating the Chinese culture and spirit. 

Considering that action movies are a way to tell touching stories, he suggested that more investment be made in action movies. Yen's patriotism and devotion deserve the respect of all the people.

Yen also rightly asserted that the Hong Kong social unrest in 2019 was a riot. 

Yen stressed that some people may not like what he said, but what he said was out of his own experience. Many netizens in both the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong strongly supported Yen. 

"Doesn't Yen have the right to tell the truth?" and "I salute Yen!" were some of the typical comments.