Jackie Chan Given Honorary Title in Malaysia

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Chan popped up wearing a traditional songkok

Some Malaysians have questioned why the Hong Kong action star deserves to be a "Datuk," the local version of a knight.

Jackie Chan surprised and baffled Malaysians over the weekend, popping up at a palace ceremony in Kuala Lumpur to be bestowed with the honorary title of Datuk of Malaysia, roughly akin to the local version of knighthood. Accessorized for the occasion with a black songkok (a traditional hat popular in the region among Muslim men), the Hong Kong action star received the national honor from Malaysia's 87-year-old monarch Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Alhaj Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.

Malaysia is relatively loose with its honorary titles — some 71 other individuals were named Datuks on Sunday, the country's Federal Territory Day holiday.

Nonetheless, as news of Chan's inclusion has spread across the country on social media this week, some Malaysians have questioned why the Hong Kong star is deserving of a Malaysian national tribute.

Popular Malaysian actor and director Afdlin Shauki weighed in on his Facebook page: “For a Malaysian, we know it’s a great honor to be bestowed (not bought) ... It would mean a lot again if these datukships were conferred on Malaysians who actually made the country proud with their contributions."

And Twitter user Shukur Hasan offered another heavily retweeted curt critique: "This just shows how meaningless these titles are. What are his contributions to our nation?"

But Malaysia's Foreign Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor was quick to defend the Rush Hour star, tweeting: "Jacky [sic] Chan is an actor with many fans in Malaysia and can promote Malaysia especially Kuala Lumpur and is deserving." The minister shared a few other photos of himself embracing Chan.

The 60-year-old actor is known to be an active presence in Pan-Asian public life when he's not starring or directing action vehicles. Last year, he attended China's annual National People's Congress as an "advisor," and in 2013 he announced that he would be building a Beijing theme park in his own honor named JC World.

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