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HONG KONG – With his comeback movie just a month away from hitting Chinese cineplexes, Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s pedigree was given a major boost Monday with his appointment to the Chinese government’s top political advisory body.
The Hong Kong comedian-director — whose latest film, JTTW, is slated for release in his hometown Feb. 7 before opening across China on Feb. 10 — was among the 978 delegates named to sit on the Guangdong provincial committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. His five-year tenure begins in January 2014, when he is expected to attend his first meeting in Guangzhou.
Having kept his public appearances to a minimum in recent years – his most recent production was CJ7, the 2008 film which he starred in and directed – Chow surprised many last year when he called a press conference to endorse the candidacy of Henry Tang Ying-yen in Hong Kong’s Chief Executive elections. Before that, the actor was not known for making public stances beyond show business matters.
Tang, a businessman who served as Hong Kong’s chief secretary for administration, eventually lost to Leung Chun-ying in a bitterly contested race, with his campaign undermined by revelations of an extramarital affair and also an illegally built basement in his mansion.
Unlike the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, the CCPCC is largely an advisory body and was established by the Chinese Communist Party as a “united front” institution aimed at bringing non-party individuals into the establishment.
While largely ceremonial, a place on the CCPCC is highly sought after as it signifies a level of officially sanctioned social standing in China – something that could facilitate the office-holders’ professional career in the country. Among the directors and actors who have served the institution in recent years are Zhang Yimou and Gong Li, who were appointees on the national level of the CCPCC.
It remains to be seen what Chow’s level of participation will be. In the past, celebrity delegates have been reproached for not attending their annual meetings. Gong, for example, was subjected to much criticism in the Chinese media in 2008 for not turning up for meetings two years in a row, with officials forced to concede that such absence has become “a problem.”
JTTW — on which Chow serves as co-director (with Derek Kwok), screenwriter and producer — is a new take on the Journey to the West legend about the adventures of a mischievous Monkey King, which the Hong Kong star himself played in a series of hit films (named A Chinese Odyssey) in the 1990s. The film stars mainland Chinese actor Wen Zhang (The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Love is Not Blind) as the primate spirit in a case also featuring Shu Qi (Three Times, The Transporter), Anthony Wong Chau-sang (Infernal Affairs, The Painted Veil) and Huang Bo (Crazy Stone, Lost in Thailand).
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