Jackie Chan Pushes to Outlaw Samurai Code in China

Jackie Chan attends the UK Film Premiere of “The Karate Kid” at Odeon Leicester Square on July 15, 2010 in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Jackie Chan attends the UK Film Premiere of “The Karate Kid” at Odeon Leicester Square on July 15, 2010 in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
By Paul Huang

Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong movie star who gained fame for portraying Chinese martial arts during his prime years, is now pushing for a new law in China to outlaw Bushido, Japan’s own martial arts tradition, known as the the code of the samurai.

The 63-year-old movie star from Hong Kong has aligned himself closely with the authoritarian views of the Chinese Communist Party in recent decades, and is now widely seen across the Chinese-speaking world as a mouthpiece for the Beijing regime.

On March 9, Chan was one of the 38 delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference who proposed legislation to “protect national dignity” at the annual session of the National People’s Congress, which is the Chinese regime’s rubber-stamp parliament.

The proposed new law would outlaw any citizen of the People’s Republic of China from “advocating for Japanese militarism, fascism, and Japanese Bushido,” and it would make doing so a criminal offense.

Two Chinese men were arrested by Chinese police in February for dressing up as WWII Imperial Japanese army soldiers at an historic war bunker in Nanjing. Such an act would be formally criminalized by a proposed new law co-sponsored by Jackie Chan and others. (Weibo photo)
Two Chinese men were arrested by Chinese police in February for dressing up as WWII Imperial Japanese army soldiers at an historic war bunker in Nanjing. Such an act would be formally criminalized by a proposed new law co-sponsored by Jackie Chan and others. (Weibo photo)

It would also outlaw any public insult to “the national character of the People’s Republic of China, dignity of the Chinese races, national heroes, and revolutionary martyrs.” Expressions in the form of “text, image, speech, rap, photo, film and television, body language” would all be covered under the proposed law.

Other co-sponsors of the law include He Yun’ao, a history professor at Nanjing University, and Feng Yuanzheng, a Chinese actor.

As a Hong Kong native, Jackie Chan’s participation as a member of political advisers to China’s rubber-stamp parliament session is an indication of the actor’s close relations with the regime. Chan has made numerous controversial statements in recent decades endorsing Beijing’s authoritarian rule, such as one in 2009 in which he belittled the democracy of Taiwan and said “I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not.”

The proposal last Friday was said to be a response to a public incident that occurred in February in which two Chinese men donned the uniforms of the Japanese army and took selfies at the site of a historic bunker in Nanjing.

The men were later arrested by Chinese police and detained for 15 days. Chinese state media widely reported the incident and labeled the behavior of the men as traitorous, citing Chinese memories of Japanese aggression and war crimes in World War II.

Bushido, also known as the way of the warrior, has its roots in Japan’s feudal history and is now among the most recognizable elements of Japanese culture, featuring widely in film, television, literature, and art. The events of World War II greatly complicated the image of Bushido, as both the supporters of militarism in Japan and also the opponents of Japanese aggression during and after the war attributed the rise of the Japanese empire to the teachings of Bushido.

Chinese state media, in accordance with the Chinese regime’s practice of fostering anti-Japanese sentiments, have consistently portrayed Bushido as the cultural embodiment of Japan’s war crimes and aggression against China.

Scholars studying Bushido, however, have generally attributed the origin of this Japanese martial tradition to the strong influence of Confucianism, which originated in China.

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