Hong Kong Protestors Boycott 'Ip Man 4' for Donnie Yen and Producer's Pro-Beijing Stance

'Ip Man 4' Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Mandarin Motion Pictures

Pro-democracy activists in the country are snubbing the martial arts film and discouraging others from seeing it in a variety of ways, including posting spoilers on social media.

Hong Kong protestors are boycotting Ip Man 4: The Finale to oppose the pro-Beijing stance of producer Raymond Wong and stars Donnie Yen and Danny Chan.

The fourth installment of the wildly successful Ip Man franchise, The Finale has broken box office records for an Asian film in China, Taiwan and Singapore. But in Hong Kong, the pic has grossed $660,000 since bowing Friday, finishing in second place behind Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. 

The boycott was organized by users of the Reddit-like LIHKG forum, one of the strategizing hubs of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement that began in June and has seen the city-state roiled by protests, running street battles and heavy-handed police action. Not only are protestors snubbing the movie, they are also actively discouraging others to see it by spoiling the storyline of the film on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in the “Ip Man Challenge.” Handy placards with major plot points in English or Chinese are being distributed alongside the hashtag "#boycottIpMan4."

Those boycotting the pic have cited the political leanings of Ip Man 4’s producer and actors as basis for their action. Wong has made his pro-China stance known especially in recent years, having organized a fund for an anti-Occupy Central organization in 2014 and vocally criticized the democratically voted best film win of the politically controversial Ten Years at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2015, calling the movie’s triumph at the ceremony “a huge mistake” and “a joke” despite it being the consensus of film industry members.

Yen, who played the eponymous character in the film series, shared the stage and sang with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a gala commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover in 2017 and issued a statement early this year reasserting “the determination of the motherland” after his fans in China was outraged by his attendance of an event hosted by German clothing brand Philipp Plein, which was allegedly involved in an incident deemed “insulting” to China a dozen years ago. Meanwhile, Chan, who plays Bruce Lee in the latest movie, has been outspokenly supportive of the Hong Kong police, posting on social media that police should not “go easy on any [protesters]” nor “let anyone of them go.”

The boycott was launched as a part of the grassroots “yellow economic circle” initiative that has started to gain traction in recent months, meant to endorse restaurants, shops and brands that support the movement and discourage spending at “blue” or pro-China establishments. Maps and guides of “yellow restaurants/shops” have been put together to encourage patronage of protest-minded Hong Kong citizens.

As one of the high-profile Hong Kong film releases this year, the China co-production Ip Man 4 was seen as a “blue” product and as epitomizing the China-leaning nature of Hong Kong-Chinese collaborations that cater to Chinese audience’s taste at the expense of the Hong Kong audience.

Veteran producer Wong inaugurated the Ip Man film franchise in 2008, making Yen a star and paving the way for his involvement in Hollywood productions, including Star Wars spinoff Rogue One and the upcoming Disney live-action remake of Mulan, which is itself the subject of a boycott after lead Crystal Liu voiced support for the Hong Kong police. The first Ip Man pic won best film and action choreography honors at the 2009 Hong Kong Film Awards. Known for its action sequences and Chinese nationalistic themes, where Ip Man always triumphs over foreign aggressors, the first three installments in the franchise have grossed over $228 million in total worldwide.