Sunday’s Oscar ceremony has come under criticism for its decision to invite action film star Donnie Yen to present an award at the event, due to the actor’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and his support of Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
An online petition demanding Yen’s removal from the ceremony has garnered over 86,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.
The petition, which the BBC reports was started by Hong Kong pro-democracy protester Tong Wai-hung, describes Yen as a “supporter of the Chinese Communist regime” and its crackdown on the residents of the city.
The petition specifically points to a statement made by the actor in a recent profile on GQ, where he says the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong “wasn’t a protest…it was a riot.”
Yen, who is best known to American movie-goers for his role in the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One and Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, has starred in several popular Hong Kong action films—including his leading role in the long-running Ip Man franchise.
He also is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a largely ceremonial body that serves as an advisory body to the Chinese Communist Party.
The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences is yet to comment on the petition.
Yen has been very public about his patriotism toward China, even describing himself as “100% Chinese” after giving up his U.S. citizenship in 2009 in favor of a Hong Kong passport. In 2017, the actor courted controversy in Hong Kong after describing his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “great honor.” This prompted calls for boycotts of his films in Hong Kong, including the 2019 release Ip Man 4. Disney’s 2020 live-action remake of Mulan—where Yen plays the character, Commander Tung—also faced calls for a boycott in Hong Kong after its lead Liu Yifei expressed her support for the crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in the city. Earlier that year, Yen had posted a video on Facebook celebrating the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return “to motherland China.”
One of the presenters at the 1993 Oscars Ceremony, actor Richard Gere, used the platform to criticize the Chinese government over the “horrendous human rights situation” in the country. Gere then urged Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping to “take his troops, take them away from Tibet and allow these people to live as free, independent people again.”