By Tom Hancock
An American style rodeo planned for Beijing’s former Olympic stadium has aroused strong opposition from Chinese animal rights activists. Now Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan has been dragged into the controversy.
A photo showing Jackie Chan holding a cowboy hat and smiling alongside Beijing Rodeo promoters Richard Tucker and Matt Shiozawa is being passed around the Chinese internet.
Earlier this year, Chan publicly expressed his support for the Rodeo, according to a report by Chinese website Tencent. The event’s organizers, Rodeo China, published a press release on April 25 stating that Chan had said on video that the Rodeo would promote cultural exchange and friendship between China and the USA.
The Beijing Rodeo will take place in Beijing’s Olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium this October. More than one hundred cowboys will descend on Beijing for the event, which aims to be the biggest ever competition of its kind, with a prize purse of eight million dollars. Promoters have billed the event as “the Super Bowl of rodeo.”
The Rodeo has drawn heavy criticism from Chinese nationalists, who see the event as an imposition of “trashy” American culture into a nationally iconic stadium, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The event was also opposed by Chinese animal rights groups, who fear that animals participating in the rodeo will be abused. A coalition of 68 animal rights groups calls for the cancellation of Rodeo China, according to the LA Times.
Chinese netizens have been outraged by Chan’s apparent support for the rodeo. “Brother Chan, you have offended the Chinese people, and you are a hypocrite” wrote one netizen quoted in Tencent’s report.
Some online commentators have refused to believe that Chan could really support the rodeo. “Brother, have you been tricked?” wrote one commenter.
A video posted on Chinese website Tudou juxtaposes the photo of Chan and the Rodeo organizers with pictures of abused cattle, set against a background of somber synthesized music. The video’s subtitles implore Chan to end his relationship with Rodeo China. The video is currently being shared on China’s most popular microblogging service, Sina Weibo.
Jackie Chan is one of the most famous celebrities in mainland China, often referred to by netizens as “Brother Chan”. Chan speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently, and is often seen on mainland television, promoting his films and appearing in advertisements. He is also known for his charity work. Following a 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, he visited the site of the disaster, and donated 10 million RMB to earthquake victims.
Last year Chan appeared in a video [YouTube] produced by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, making a passionate plea to bile-farming from bears for use in Chinese medicine.
“You made a video about the protection of bears, and now you’re promoting the mistreatment of cattle, its a massive contradiction. Brother Chan, you’ve hurt me deeply,” one netizen wrote.
Jackie Chan has not made any further comments on his relationship with Rodeo China.