China enlists Jackie Chan to kick off political meeting
Film star Jackie Chan joined other celebrities Sunday at a meeting of China’s highest-profile advisory body, a move seen by analysts as an attempt by the ruling Communist Party to cultivate “soft power”.
Nobel literature prizewinner Mo Yan and basketball star Yao Ming also attended the annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), organised by the party.
The Hong Kong actor’s participation in the meeting, as one of 2,000 delegates making suggestions to China’s government, has been strongly criticised by some in his native city.
The martial arts star provoked a furious fight-back last December after reportedly suggesting that protests in Hong Kong should be restricted. In 2009 he landed in hot water for telling a forum that “we Chinese need to be controlled”.
The 58-year-old, famous in the West for the “Rush Hour” series and “Police Story”, kept a low profile outside the meeting.
“I have no way of speaking now, we don’t have enough time to elaborate,” he told a scrum of reporters opposite Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, topped by clear blue skies after heavy smog which has blighted the capital in recent months.
Chan, wearing a black shirt and glasses, said merely that he was “very happy” before boarding a bus with Mo Yan.
Photos published by state news agency Xinhua also showed towering basketball star Yao Ming alongside other delegates packed into Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall Of The People alongside president-to-be Xi Jinping.
Xi, currently party chief, will be formally appointed president to replace Hu Jintao during a meeting of the National People’s Congress, or legislature, which starts Tuesday.
The CPPCC is purely an advisory body with little political clout, but is given a high profile as part of the ruling party’s efforts to appear consultative and democratic rather than hierarchical.
Its hundreds of delegates include prominent citizens such as scientists, business owners and artists, and some non-communists.
Professor Sonny Ho, co-director at Hong Kong’s Centre for Greater China Studies, has said Chan was selected to attend the CPPCC because it was thought his stardom could help promote ties with Hong Kong.
Many in the former British colony, now a semi-autonomous territory of China, are wary of Beijing’s perceived interference in its domestic affairs.
“Jackie Chan is acting under the soft power and united front of the PRC (mainland) government,” Ho said last week.
Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao sat in the monumental hall in front of cascading red curtains with enormous gold tassels, alongside Li Keqiang who is set to take over from Wen this month.
The CPPCC’s official leader Jia Qinglin, in a 45-minute speech, stressed the body’s close ties to the party.
Its members should “closely unite at the side of the leadership of the Communist Party, with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary” and support efforts to improve peoples’ living standards, he said.
Delegates avoid strong criticism on issues deemed to be potentially destabilising to the party’s rule, such as a recent wave of self-immolations in Tibetan areas in protest at Beijing’s rule over Tibet.
Tibetan attendee Padma Choling told reporters that “Tibetans always feel grateful to late Chairman Mao Zedong”, Xinhua reported.
Orange-suited firemen were stationed next to extinguishers on Tiananmen Square.
Delegates said they would suggest moves to raise farmer’s incomes and promote scientific talent as well as administrative reforms to reduce corruption.