What Did Jackie Chan Say?  (04/26/2009) 

This following video clip is part of what Jackie Chan said at the Bo'ao Forum.  He has said more elsewhere, but this video clip contains the most important part at this time.  I saw this video clip and I have read some transcripts.  I was not satisfied with the quality of those transcripts, so I am doing one on my own.



Eh ... actually ... actually, China has been changing all along.  During the ten years since I returned ... for those ten years now, the progress has been very big, very big.  Besides today, let us not forget, we have been reforming sixty years ... thirty years ... but our nation has been founded .. thirty years ... we are just a small nation among large nations ... how shall we say?  ... we have a history of five thousand years, but our new nation was founded only sixty years ago.  We have only opened up for thirty years.  It is hard to make any comparisons with those ... 

But I suddenly feel that for the ten years since I returned ... I slowly ... I grew up in Hong Kong ... I grew up in Hong Kong ... from the time when Hong Kong was returned to China up until now, I can slowly see ... I don't know ... eh ... whether it is better to be free or it is better not to be free ... right now I am really very confused ... eh ... if there is too much freedom, it becomes like Hong Kong today ... very chaotic ... furthermore, it becomes like Taiwan ... it is also very chaotic ... eh ... I have slowly come to realize that we the Chinese people need regulation ...

[laughter first, then applause from the audience]

If there is no regulation and we suddenly opened up, we can do whatever we want.  Sometimes I feel that ... eh ... when I go to Singapore, why can't I have chewing gum?  Later I realized that it is correct to forbid people from having chewing gum.  If I let you have chewing gum, some people are going to stick it underneath the table or on the chair.  They don't respect themselves.  Many people are not like those people in the United States or Japan where they are spontaneously self-respecting.  When you don't have self-respect, the government will regulate.  That is for certain.  I can see that.  Today people are doing whatever they want to do.  Today a lot of people are abusing their freedom of speech, abusing their cultural freedom (in Cantonese) ... eh ... cultural freedom, they are abusing it ... er ... human rights.  They abusing it.

Ever since I returned, our movie screening process has been a lot better today than ten years ago.  I believe that it will continue to be a lot better ten years from now continually continually continually.  Today our nation of China ... I cannot speak for the nation ... but I feel that our nation is learning continuously ... it is learning continuously from the outside ... really ... you see that we hold so many research conferences in China, we hold...  eh ... and we send so many senior officials overseas to study, and this is all in order to learn.  I believe that our China will become better and better.  This is what I believe.  [faint applause]

[cut to a different clip]

What I want to say is ... when I was in Hong Kong, I was in the film industry.  Sometimes, I want to say that our Hong Kong film industry really has no idea what it is up to.  Really.  They get a story today, they start filming tomorrow and they are ready to show the movie next week.  They make so many, many lousy big movies.  You can't bear to watch anymore.  Sometimes I wonder why Hong Kong ... Hong Kong in the past ... would let such movies be shown?  Our film industry produces so many lousy movies.  Right.  Every country has its own system.  When I go to the United States, I cross the street and the police will stop me if I go through a red light.  You have to observe the laws of that nation.  If you go to Vietnam, you will have to abide by Vietnamese regulations.  If you go to Singapore, you will have to abide by Singaporean regulations.  In China, you may be uncultured and you litter everywhere.  If you go to Singapore and you litter, watch what happens.  You will go to jail immediately.  Therefore if you come to China to make a movie, you must abide by Chinese regulations.  These are just the rules of the game.  This is how I feel.   [applause]

In the Associated Press report on April 19, 2009, the key part is summarized as follows:

¡§I¡¦m not sure if it¡¦s good to have freedom or not,¡¨ Chan said. ¡§I¡¦m really confused now. If you¡¦re too free, you¡¦re like the way Hong Kong is now. It¡¦s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.¡¨

Chan added: ¡§I¡¦m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we¡¦re not being controlled, we¡¦ll just do what we want.¡¨

The Associated Press transcript gives the impression that Jackie Chan was more cogent and articulate than he actually is.  The verbatim transcript makes him much less so.  For example, he could not even get the dates of the founding of the People's Republic of China or the beginning of the reforms right at first.  You can also watch the video and you don't even have to understand Chinese to perceive the clipped nature of his speech.  Jackie Chan is not in his milieu when it comes to this kind of subject.  He may be able to recite scripts, but he can't improvise on the fly.

In the above transcription, the most controversial phrase is: "the Chinese need regulation" (or "we Chinese need to be controlled" according to Associated Press).  Jackie Chan was responding to questions about the film industry in China and its regulations.  For a detailed discussion of the subtleties in the Chinese word guan, I refer you to CN Reviews.  Personally, I have no idea what Jackie Chan means when it comes to the Chinese "needing regulation" or "needing to be controlled."  If you want to elevate what he said to a racist characterization of the Chinese people as being natural-born obedient slaves or advocacy for authoritarianism, that is your right and privilege.

Here is a partial listing of other English-language blog posts:

In mainland China, I did not sense a strong reaction against Jackie Chan.  My transcription did not include what Jackie Chan had to say about mainland China.  Elsewhere during the Bo'ao Forum, he said that certain small companies in China had acted wrongly by putting additives into milk powder.  That is not factually under dispute, so how was any mainlander going to be outraged?  Jackie Chan also said that if he had to buy a television set, he would never buy a made-in-China one because that just might explode.  Instead, he would buy a Japanese television set (note: even though they might be physically manufactured in China but given a Japanese brand name).  There were some jokes told about this comment and some scholars published an open letter about Chan's assumption of slavishness among the Chinese people, but there really wasn't much else to get worked up over.

In Taiwan, there was a vociferous reaction from the pan-green side against Jackie Chan, who held the position as an ambassador for the 2009 Summer Deaflympics in Taiwan.  But shortly afterwards came the Chiu Yi-ying slapping Lee Ching-hua incident which led to the comment that this was exactly what Jackie Chan meant.  They can fire Jackie Chan as the ambassador for the 2009 Summer Deaflympics in Taiwan, but it wouldn't ruin his career.  This was not the first time that he spoke ill about Taiwan politics.  They can boycott his movie The Shinjuku Incident, but it is unclear who would pay to watch this piece of junk (warning: oh, by the way, please be notified that this is my personal opinion about all Jackie Chan movies) anyway.

The reaction against Jackie was the strongest in Hong Kong, being led by Apple Daily with front page stories on April 19 and 20 respectively:

This lackey Jackie Chan!
"The Chinese people need to be controlled"

Various social sectors prompt
Jackie Chan to make public apology

(New York Times

Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong¡¦s biggest newspapers, used its front page to anoint him ¡§a knave.¡¨ Politicians in Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that China claims as sovereign territory, described him as ¡§idiotic¡¨ and ¡§ignorant.¡¨ Albert Ho, a Hong Kong legislator, called Mr. Chan a ¡§racist,¡¨ adding: ¡§People around the world are running their own countries. Why can¡¦t Chinese do the same?¡¨   ... ¡§I wouldn¡¦t watch his movies again unless he apologizes,¡¨ said Shing Hiu-yi, vice president of the Students¡¦ Union Council at Hong Kong University, one of many groups that have been issuing condemnations and calling for boycotts. ¡§What he said was insulting to the Chinese people.¡¨

¡§I wouldn¡¦t watch his movies again unless he apologizes,¡¨ said Shing Hiu-yi, vice president of the Students¡¦ Union Council at Hong Kong University, one of many groups that have been issuing condemnations and calling for boycotts. ¡§What he said was insulting to the Chinese people.¡¨ 

On the other hand, few have publicly acknowledged that Mr. Chan¡¦s sentiments, even if ¡§taken out of context,¡¨ as his spokesman insisted, are quietly accepted or embraced by many Chinese.

Related Link: Further to the whole Jackie Chan thing    Imagethief