Territorial disputes in the South China Sea became the center of a social media outcry, prompting an international medical charity to uninvite Hong Kong-born movie star Jackie Chan from its anniversary celebration scheduled for Nov. 11.
The charity involved was the Vietnam branch of Operation Smile, a charity organization that provides free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with dental and facial disfigurement. Chan is an ambassador for the charity.
On Nov. 8, the charity announced on its Facebook page that Chan will not be coming to Vietnam to participate in the celebration due to “unforeseeable reaction of the people.”
It stated that the charity took notice of the social media opposition to Chan’s planned visit, and apologized for “conflicting and inaccurate information” coming out from this incident that has affected public opinion.
According to local media Hanoi Times, Operation Smile Vietnam announced its invitation for Chan to visit Vietnam on Oct. 31. Since then, Vietnamese netizens’ call to boycott Chan went viral on social media. Angry netizens also left messages on the charity’s Facebook page, claiming that Chan has previously voiced support for the nine-dash line.
For example, a Facebook user named Phuong Nam said: “Jackie Chan, don’t ever hope to enter our country.”
To assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea, Beijing has used the “nine-dash line” to proclaim its sovereignty over 90 percent of the waters, despite the fact that a United Nations legal judgment in 2016 refuted Beijing’s claims.
Islands, reefs, and rocks in the South China Sea are disputed by a number of countries, including Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has refused to accept the U.N. ruling and instead increased its military presence in the region, including by building artificial islands equipped with naval and air bases near the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
In recent years, Chan, who is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body to the Communist Party, has increasingly voiced support for Beijing’s policies. He is widely viewed as a mouthpiece for the Chinese regime.
Ngo Toan Thang, deputy spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a regular press meeting on Nov. 7, said he was not aware of the online boycott against Chan, according to local media.
Thang then added that Vietnam has a legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, before adding that China’s nine-dash line was an illegal claim.
According to Operation Smile Vietnman’s Facebook page, hundreds of medical professionals and volunteers will take part in the anniversary celebration. Another Smile ambassador, South Korean actress Ha Ji-won, will be attending.
This is not the first time Vietnam has voiced opposition to China’s territorial claims.
In October, the Vietnam government removed Hollywood animated film “Abominable” from the country’s theaters because a scene in the movie depicts the main character standing in front of a map that shows the “nine-dash line.”