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Hong Kong actor Nicholas Tse, star of the recent Chinese action blockbuster Raging Fire, says he’s giving up his Canadian citizenship amid widespread skepticism in mainland China of local celebrities with foreign nationalities.
Over the weekend, while Raging Fire was climbing to $175 million at the Chinese box office, Tse told a CCTV presenter that he was already in the process of surrendering his Canadian passport. He said he was prompted to make the decision when he noticed a comment on Chinese social media about Raging Fire that “made [his] heart skip a beat,” because it was critically questioning whether he was Canadian or Chinese.
“I wondered, why would they say that?” he said, adding: “Whether it’s food, music or action films, I have the willingness and responsibility to spread Chinese culture to the whole world.”
Born in Hong Kong to actor parents Patrick Tse and Deborah Lee, Nicholas Tse moved with his family to Vancouver, Canada in his youth, before later returning to Hong Kong to pursue a career in entertainment. He acquired Canadian citizenship during his time in the country, joining the hundreds of thousands of other Hong Kong residents who hold two passports.
Recently, Hong Kong’s controversial chief executive Carrie Lam has said that Hong Kong will begin cracking down on the practice, which is technically forbidden under Hong Kong law. This will bring Hong Kong more in line with mainland China, where citizens may only hold Chinese nationality, and where foreigners must give up their home nationality if they wish to acquire a Chinese passport.
Other major Hong Kong and Chinese stars known to have foreign nationality include Gong Li and Jet Li, both Singaporean, and director Chen Kaige, who has a U.S. passport.
Tse’s decision comes amid a time of heightened scrutiny of celebrities in China, both by Beijing officials and the general public online. The is no ban on people of Chinese descent with foreign nationality participating in China’s film industry, but such figures have been viewed with increasing scrutiny. Actress Crystal Liu, star of Disney’s Mulan, was blasted by online nationalists in 2019 for giving up her Chinese citizenship to become American, and Oscar best director winner Chloé Zhao received similar scrutiny after an old interview comment resurfaced suggesting she had a nuanced, at times critical, view of her home country (despite currently living in California, she remains a Chinese citizen, however).
This past summer Chinese officials issued several new rules and policy guidelines to prevent actors accused of immoral behavior from participating in the local entertainment industry. Chinese-Canadian pop star-turned-actor Kris Wu was detained in August under accusations of rape, and Chinese media took pains to portray him as a Canadian who had abandoned traditional Chinese values. Later that month, billionaire Chinese actress and investor Vicki Zhao Wei was de-platformed in China, with all of her Chinese series and social media accounts pulled from the Internet for unknown reasons.
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