Donnie Yen Oscars: what did John Wick star say about Oscars Petition - comments on China explained

The John Wick actor said that ‘online cyber-bullying/cancel culture has got to stop’

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Donnie Yen has responded to a petition that called for him to be removed as a presenter at the Oscars 2023 because of his support for the Chinese government.

The Hong Kong actor who stars in John Wick Chapter 4, presented the award for Best Original Song during the Academy Awards in March 2023. A petition calling for him to be removed was set up before the award show, with it claiming his appointment as a presenter showed “contempt for the people of Hong Kong” and would “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.

Despite efforts to have him uninvited, Yen went ahead with presenting at the 95th Academy Awards.

So, what has Donnie Yen said about the petition, who started it and what has he said about the Chinese government? Here’s everything you need to know.

Who is Donnie Yen?

Yen is an actor and martial artist who was born in Hong Kong and moved to the USA when he was 11-years-old. He is one of the leading martial arts choreographers in the world and has featured in films including: Hero (2002), Seven Swords (2005) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016).

Donnie Yen presented the award for Best Original Song at the Oscars 2023 (Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images)Donnie Yen presented the award for Best Original Song at the Oscars 2023 (Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images)
Donnie Yen presented the award for Best Original Song at the Oscars 2023 (Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images)

He has starred alongside Keanu Reeves in the John Wick franchise, featuring in the latest edition Chapter 4 which is currently in cinemas.

What has Donnie Yen said about the Oscars petition?

Yen addressed the petition directly in an interview with Variety. The actor said: “I’m allowed to love my own culture. Love my own country. Why cannot I be patriotic? This whole online cyber-bullying/cancel culture has got to stop.”

He added: “You can’t own somebody’s thoughts. And you want to silence them? It’s totally hypocrites.”

Who started the petition?

The petition was set up by activist Tong Wai-Hung and called on the Academy Awards to cancel inviting Yen as a presenter at the 2023 award show. It claimed he was a “supporter of the Chinese Communist regime” and that his appointment as a presenter showed “contempt for the people of Hong Kong” and would “damage the image and reputation of the film industry”.

The petition is still active and as of April 1 has over 114,000 signatures.

What did Donnie Yen say about China?

Yen has been open about how he views the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

In an interview with GQ, the actor said: “It wasn’t a protest, ok, it was a riot.” Adding: “I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it. 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.”

It’s not the first time he’s made similar comments about Hong Kong, reported by CNN, in 2017 Yen called it a “great honor” to perform next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2017, and celebrated Hong Kong’s return “to motherland China” in 2020.