Actor Anthony Wong courted controversy at the 37th Hong Kong Film Awards after making some cryptic comments believed to have been aimed at martial arts superstar Jackie Chan.
Wong, who tugged at our heartstrings last month after being reunited with his two half-brothers thanks to a BBC report, was presenting the award for best screenplay at the city’s equivalent of the Oscars last night.
Musing about his love for screenwriting, the actor delved into an anecdote, which appeared to some to be a veiled dig at fellow Hongkonger Jackie Chan for the martial art star’s comments saying that there was no distinction between Chinese and Hong Kong films.
“I talked to an old friend about the most important elements of screenwriting. The first one is that a surprise happens, and another element is that it is logical,” Wong said, before going on to refer, sarcastically, about the “surprise” that Hong Kong films continued to be made.
“That is logical, but you did not expect it,” he said.
“Will a Hong Kong film be released in the coming year? This is a surprise that you did not expect. Logically, but unexpectedly, we have Hong Kong movies released every year, that makes sense, doesn’t it?”
According to Apple Daily, the comments interpreted as being aimed at Chan, who was also at the ceremony and who is known for his pro-Beijing positions, like, for instance, this pop song where he professes love for China.
According to a report by i-Cable in March, Chan — a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference — made his remarks about Hong Kong films in response to a question about movies co-produced between the city and the mainland.
“We don’t say whether a film is a Hong Kong film or a Chinese film, Hong Kong films are Chinese films as well. It’s only about whether you are making local films, like in Shenyang you make Shenyang films, in Shandong you make Shandong films, many of them can’t get out of Shandong or Chaozhou.”
“There is only one kind of film called Chinese film, like Hong Kong Chinese film.”
Wong’s comments come amid the on going clash between Hong Kong identity and what many see as increasing mainland control over the city, though they’re not the first time he’s touched on politics at the annual film awards.
When presenting the award for best director in 2015, Wong made references to the 2014 umbrella movement, where pro-democracy protestors occupied parts of Hong Kong for 79 days and demanded the right of to directly nominate and elect the city’s chief executive, what they called “real universal suffrage.”
During Wong’s 2015 speech, he stopped short of saying the slogan “I want real universal suffrage” and instead said “I want… to really be the master of ceremonies,” a statement that was met with laughs by the audience, with one member of the audience shouting “real universal suffrage.”
He also took a dig at the recommendation by pro-establishment figures that democrats should accept Beijing’s proposal to pre-screen candidates and “pocket it first.”
“In the end I was told, ‘OK, let’s talk and would you like to present the best director award instead? Pocket it first,” Wong said.
In 2016, the Hong Kong Film Awards also got political when the gong for best film was awarded to Ten Years, which comprised five short anthology films that imagines what Hong Kong could be like in 2025.
Scenes in the film included taxi drivers being forced to pass a Mandarin-proficiency test, an activist setting themselves alight in front of the British Consulate, and Hong Kong children dressed in military uniforms and policing adults like the “Red Guards” from China’s Cultural Revolution.
That year, many major China-based broadcasters pulled out from broadcasting the awards after it was announced that Ten Years was nominated, and netizens in the mainland even reported that the live feed was cut off when the winner for best film was announced.