Science & Technology

Freedom Fighter


On Saturday, Kung-Fu comedian and Chinese patriot Jackie Chan had this to say about freedom in his country:

I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not…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….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."

Naturally, the knee-jerk-round-house-kick reaction is to condemn Chan for his freedom hating. But before anyone prepares for a rumble in the Bronx, keep in mind a 2005 Reason article about the Great Firewall of China by Contributing Editor Kerry Howley:

Decades of state censorship have yielded a mastery of euphemism and allegory so subtle the Chinese government ends up promoting films meant to mock its rule. If any culture will find a way to discuss freedom while routing around the word freedom, it's China's….Cyberspace is too vast to police, information too fluid, and there are a slew of sites dedicated to punching holes in the walls meant to hold back the deluge. China is often said to have co-opted the Internet for its own purposes, but the idea that a slow-moving communist bureaucracy can stanch the stream and spackle every new fissure stretches credulity.

The most recent example of Chinese mastery of the ancient art is the "Grass-Mud Horse." The mythical creature was praised for its virtue and beauty before being censored by the Chinese government. "Grass-Mud Horse," happens to sound like "Fuck Your Mother" and supposedly struggles against the suspiciously symbolic "river crab," which happens to sound like a bastardized version of Hu Jintao's call for a China that is "harmonized."  

Those familiar with Chan's American oeuvre, can be excused for laughing at the idea of his work being anything close to "subtle." And Chan's comments were almost certainly not of the euphemistic kind. But Chan was in Boa, China that day for a panel discussion called "Tapping into Asia's Creative Industry Potential."

Taiwanese and Hong Kong officials were upset over Chan's comments, assailing his remarks as, among other things, "racist." If dissident Chinese artists and bloggers are any indication, however, attacking Chan's words with a karate chop is not the best answer. It's Judo–the art of using an opponent's force to your advantage–that pro-democratic, freedom-loving supporters can use to their advantage. So perhaps Chan was tapping into Asia's creative potential: There's nothing like crap comments to turn angry and creative people into Fearless Hyenas:

Senior Editor Michael Moynihan on the ass-backwards statements of another movie star here.