Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition to remove Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen as an Oscars presenter over his support for the Chinese government.
The online petition was started by “a group of people from Hong Kong”.
It says that his latest remarks over protests in Hong Kong in 2019 “violate the spirit of freedom of speech”.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose voters determine who the Oscars go to, has not yet commented on the petition.
Yen is a globally recognised action star who recently drew controversy for an interview in which he called the protests a riot.
The 59-year-old is best known for the Ip Man movies, a Hong Kong series based on a martial arts master which has grossed more than US$400m at the worldwide box office. He will next appear alongside Keanu Reeves in Hollywood film John Wick 4.
The petition – set up by well-known Hong Kong activist Tong Wai-hung – claims that the Academy’s invitation to Yen shows “contempt for the people of Hong Kong” and his presence will “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.
Last Thursday, Yen was named as a presenter for the 95th Academy Awards, which will take place at in Los Angeles on Sunday. It is not known which category Yen is scheduled to present in.
Born in Guangzhou, China, Yen was raised in Hong Kong and moved to the US at the age of 11. He gained American citizenship, but later renounced it.
In a recent interview with GQ Hype, the father of three reiterated his opposition to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The protests were initially sparked by plans to allow extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, before growing into a wider anti-government movement.
“It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot. I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it,” Yen said. “But my own experience, like, I was there, I have many friends who were there. I don’t want to get political. A lot of people might not be happy for what I’m saying, but I’m speaking from my own experience.”
Yen also asserted that Western media outlets such as the BBC and CNN only focus on “negative stories” about China.
Earlier this month, he participated in the Two Sessions in Beijing, the annual meetings of China’s legislature and top political advisory body, as a Hong Kong delegate. They are attended by thousands of representatives from across the country. Donnie Yen is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which has no real legislative power and draws its members from various sectors of society.