Is Jackie Chan Right or Wrong? Tell Me What You Think.

April 20, 2009

My good Email-buddy Philip See gave me this article written by Associate Press writer Annie Huwant in Taipei. The question is: Would too much democracy on a nation of many undisciplined citizenry destroy a society? Would the points tackled in this article be applicable to the Philippines too? Write me your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Please refrain from using foul languages and derogatory remarks or the comments will be blocked. You may vote on the Poll at the right as well.

HONG KONG – Action star Jackie Chan ‘s comments wondering whether Chinese people “need to be controlled” have drawn sharp rebuke in his native Hong Kong and in Taiwan.

Chan told a business forum in the southern Chinese province of Hainan that a free society may not be beneficial for China ‘s authoritarian mainland.

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said Saturday. “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

He went on to say that freedoms in Hong Kong and Taiwan made those societies “chaotic.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders, but did not sit well with lawmakers in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“He’s insulted the Chinese people. Chinese people aren’t pets,” Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Leung Kwok-hung told The Associated Press. “Chinese society needs a democratic system to protect human rights and rule of law.”

Another lawmaker, Albert Ho, called the comments “racist,” adding: “People around the world are running their own countries. Why can’t Chinese do the same?”

Former British colony Hong Kong enjoys Western-style civil liberties and some democratic elections under Chinese rule. Half of its 60-member legislature is elected, with the other half picked by special interest groups. But Hong Kong’s leader is chosen by a panel stacked with Beijing loyalists.

In democratically self-ruled Taiwan, which split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949, legislator Huang Wei-che said Chan himself “has enjoyed freedom and democracy and has reaped the economic benefits of capitalism. But he has yet to grasp the true meaning of freedom and democracy.”

Chan’s comments were reported by news outlets in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but were ignored by the mainland Chinese press.

Although Chan was a fierce critic of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989, which killed at least hundreds, he has not publicly criticized China’s government in recent years and is immensely popular on the mainland.

He performed during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and took part in the Olympic torch relay .

Chan also is vice chairman of the China Film Association, a key industry group.

You can also check out this article at:’s Jackie Chan’s China comments prompt backlash.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. KringKring

    I think zero democracy won’t do in any country or in any race . Even God, Himself allows us to have democracy . More than arguing if democracy should be implemented or not (in whatever aspect) , it will be better if we just promote good values so that we could use democracy in a way that God wants us to .
    I once read in a book ‘Outrageous Claims of God’ , LOVE God and do whatever you want.

  2. nelltec

    We grew up during the martial law days, advantages and disadvantages plague this “new society or bagong lipunan” as they say. But evidently the first few years of this period has seen discipline unrivaled until now. I agree that zero democracy will not work either, but a semi disciplinarian state could be they way to go. This is only possible with God fearing people at the lead. Take a look around specially in the roads and you will see that too much liberty is being abused…May God bless us all.

  3. Josefina Anskjaer

    There was once a great political figure that said “democracy is the least of all evils.”
    I think democracy is like the garden of Eden – you have the right to choose good from evil. Or live the consequences of your actions.

  4. Kerwin Torregrosa

    This thing called democracy & freedom should be exercised with responsibility. We always talk about the freedom to speak, freedom to protest etc. etc. however. We Filipinos have yet to equate it responsibility. Again with whom much is given, much is expected and with GREAT POWERS comes with GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES!!!

  5. Chris Vargas

    I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as absolute freedom. Freedom always comes with responsibility, while in democracy we might be “free” to do what ever we want to do, we need to do them though in the context of others’ rights too!

  6. David Cua

    Changes and disciplines come from within. It start with one self, then within one’s family and move forward to be a positive influence to other in particular and to society in general. It is most important that one have a personal relationship and be guided and do the will of our Almighty God.
    The more important question is not about more freedom but how to be more obedient to the perfect will of the one who created us.

  7. Fortune

    Just like parents letting their children “out” to the world for the first time, giving them independence, no parents at their back bickering…experiencing freedom and i think this is what Jackie Chan meant that the need for control be a good way to disciplined..FIRST, in guidance still…then set out.
    While it is true that people are not pets, who need to be “trained”, I think there is nothing wrong with being given a “pat” on the back every once in a while.
    Mr. Chan in a way, i think was getting worried with all the scandals, issues, that are most of the time involving Chinese nationals (Mainland, HK or Taiwan) every now and then. We cannot deny that our heritage is colorful, meaningful and is really worth putting down in history books, his views in some way worth giving a deep thought, rather than just reacting. He has no harsh words unlike CheapTsao (but that’s another issue).
    Just my two centavos….

  8. Fortune

    ..ow..i guess i am just “old-school”…

  9. Atticus

    It’s not democracy that’s to be blamed for all the hoolla-balloo that’s going on. It is just in the nature of man to be abusive, well at least on several areas. I personally believe that blaming democracy for the abuses of others is just like blaming God for giving man a free will.

    On a more humanistic approach, I’d say that it would be better for me to see some disorder with conflicting interests and world views around given the individual liberties granted to citizens, rather than seeing a handful of communists controlling more than a billion people into something that the governed do not fully understand, or appreciate.

  10. Mark

    Let me begin with a few quotations:
    “Democracy is the vilest form of Government.”
    -Thomas Paine, US founding Father, Author of The Rights of Man
    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
    -Benjamin Franklin, US founding father, co-Author US constitution
    “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
    “If men were angels no government would be necessary.”
    -James Madison, US founding father, co-Author US constitution

    Hopefully this will dispel any notion that the US was founded to be a democracy (it was founded as a republic) as well as highlight the deficiencies of democracy.

    I believe democracy is not an end in itself but merely a means to achieving greater human freedom and rights. And whenever it subverts these ends, we should not defend it blindly.

    Look at history, Socrates was killed by a democracy, Hitler was elected democratically (won 89% of the vote), slavery of an ethnic minority by a majority is and was justified by democracy, Genocides were also justified by democracies.

    The funny thing with democracy is that it NEEDS limits. Democracies must never be allowed to violate another’s rights or freedoms. A mob that wants to rob a man because he is black isn’t made or less right because of the size of the mob.

    Our democracy is so screwed up because we have allowed politicians to determine how resources is allocated in our economy rather than what the market demands. As a result money is wasted on kickbacks, productive investments take a back seat, and people go hungry. And a hungry stomach is no respecter of laws, no matter how good.

  11. Mark


    When I said: “The funny thing with democracy is that it NEEDS limits.” I wish to add: democracy NEEDS limits in order to create greater freedoms for society. The end is always greater freedom and human rights.

  12. ellen minas

    I guess Jackie knew his people more than we do. just like we know our own family more that others do.
    And probably he spoke out of experience…
    Here in our country we are so democratic, but are we at peace?
    aren’t we in chaos?

  13. Selena

    I don’t think Jackie Chan meant it in that manner.

    I personally don’t agree with zero democracy but I believe there must be a certain level of control when governing a country otherwise things will certainly get chaotic, policies will not be implemented and worse of all the government will not even stay long enough to govern the country.

    Every citizen in their own country just want food, a roof over their head and a steady job who want to run for cover every time??

    Just look at Indonesia & Thailand..the government don’t stay long, there is uprising all the time because there is no control..then who suffers?

    The people 🙁

  14. Cristal

    For me, democracy shows how we respect people’s rights so it is just right that we have a democractic country. It just all boils down to discipline. Why don’t we start with ourselves? within our families? If each family will have discipline, we’ll have a better society. We cannot make a big change in just one snap. It will be harder for us to do. We’ll have to make a change in our own little ways. And when you put those little changes together, we’ll have a big change that will transform our society into a better one.

  15. Mark

    In case anyone is wondering, I voted no on the poll.

    “For me, democracy shows how we respect people’s rights so it is just right that we have a democractic country.”

    You are absolutely correct that democracy shows we respect that other people have rights. But it does not mean democracy respects ALL rights. Democracy merely shows we believe people have the right to self-determination (the right to determine our fate or live as we see fit). And the ability to elect one’s leaders is a means to do so. But it should be tempered with the rights of others to do the same. And in this regard democracy is insufficient. Democracy is about majority rules. And in a democracy, the majority can always exploit the minority/individual as I have pointed out in certain cases of history.

    That is why we have a bill of rights and a constitution that supposedly limits the ability of the majority to exploit a minority. These are things that cannot be put to a vote.

    Before continuing let me quote the following:
    “What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? ”
    -James Madison, US founding father
    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, US founding father, Author of US Declaration of Independence

    We have, in effect, exploited the minority. Mainly the minority of productive individuals. Our constitution gives enormous leeway for a mob or bunch of rallyists to hold hostage business and firms. Note that not all businesses are honest or good for society, but we indiscriminately destroy both the bad and good.

    To cite an example:
    The company I work for has to pay a barangay permit of Php24k for our ads. I can understand why businesses would need to pay for permits like a permit to pollute. Such payments are used to treat the damage a business may do to the environment or compensate those affected. But ADS!? The barangay isn’t damaged or negatively affected in anyway (at least not to the tune of Php24k). Practices like these discourages businesses from investing, creating jobs, and raising the standard of living.
    But who will the barangay voters vote for? The captain that shares the Php24k with them or the one with the long term vision of wanting to create a better future? The former gives a quick and certain reward while the costs are borne by others as well, the reward of the latter is uncertain and the costs are immediate and close. In actual practice, the former wins more often than the latter.

    As a result, people become poorer and more vulnerable to exploitation; more likely to sell their votes. They become less self-determined!. The whole point of democracy is lost! It is so frustrating. So I wish to reiterate, democracy is merely and only a means to greater freedom and human rights. We must not confuse it as an end in itself. It must be tempered with limits if it is to help us build a truly just and humane society.

  16. Mark

    Concerning the barangay election example. Another problem with voting for the “right” person that doesn’t buy your vote or give you doleouts (extracted through corruption) is that if you don’t sell your vote for P500 you immediately lose it in the hope the “right” person will win. But you also take the risk that your neighbors will do the same, who in turn take the same risk with their neighbors. P500 is a lot of money for a common laborer with intermittent income and it is asking a lot for them to give it up. So I’m not surprised why the wrong people usually win.

  17. Glenn Mortel

    Only those who hate order would find Mr. Chan’s comment insulting.
    If we come to think of it, a world without law and order would be chaotic indeed.

    Democracy has been defined as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Those who follow the law need not worry about the punishment.
    It is only when one breaks the law that he is to suffer the consequences of his actions.

    People who keep the law are free indeed. They are spared from the anxiety and guilt that come as a result of thier disobedience. People cherished so much of their freedom but they pay little or no attention at all with their corresponding duties and responsibilities.

    In a society filled with undisciplined citizenry, too much democracy would eventually destroy it. It ain’t true only to Hong Kong and Taiwan but with Philippines and anywhere else as well.

    A true and honest assessment of the so-called freedom fighters are in reality wolves on a sheep’s skin. They persuade others to believe that they are advocates of democracy when in truth and in fact they are tyrants who love nothing but uncensored freedom to spread their own evil deeds. For them, it’s just plain business; the underlying goal of which is always personal enrichment and aggrandizement be it in wealth, power or prestige.

    As for me, those who preach that control and censorship are no longer needed in a democratic society are teaching people lawlessness, defiance and outright rebellion to the authority and sovereignty of the duly established government. Those people, more than anyone else, are to be held responsible for the widespread terror, criminality, and debasement that pervade the society.

    Rather than drawing men to obedience and loyalty to a set a moral standard, they, by their distorted teachings, in effect, create in men a spirit of monstrosity.
    They preach to men the very same spirit of rebellion that made Lucifer a traitor!

  18. Philip Olivan

    I am very sure that Chan has made those comments with good intentions. He wouldn’t want to piss anyone off. But his point seems to be aimed in the right direction. No democracy is perfect. We, not only the Chinese but also other races, need at least some control at a point (level).

    Democracy and Freedom are very delicate subjects. Not everyone, including the lawmakers, fully understand what Democracy and Freedom means and how they should be applied in our lives. Why? Let’s look at America, as an example. America is the world’s oldest and longest living Democracy. According to my studies in American Political Science, the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution to afford Freedom to Americans. Nevertheless, they did not give the Freedom like candies. They reasoned that Freedom can be achieved if a level of responsibility among the citizens is achieved. Without a level of responsibility, Chaos would occur very much like the collapse of Rome.

    However, America is not the most perfect country, even in today. They have their own problems. Does that demonstrate that America has the most perfect Democracy? I do not think so. Every political, philosophical, sociological ideas are not always perfect. We will always debate the ideas, and criticize them constructively (I hope so).

    Now, if we can look at Chan’s comments – he indicated that Chinese people need to be at least controlled. I view that comment as saying that we need a level of responsibility, and any responsibility beyond that requires government to control us. It is more of a system based on trust. Of course – why do we have laws? The most basic law that we have always understood for centuries – murder. If we kill, we face consequences. But if it wasn’t for the government, who can decide the consequences? Imagine if we allow people to decide what our consequences is for our heinous crimes. Chaos would occur.

    But again, who elects the government? The people. We elect our government officials based on trust. If we don’t trust our government officials, we can elect them out. That’s why America’s Constitution mandates that an election for the Congressmen/women shall be held every two years.

    Without elections, we would have chaos all over the world. I think that we have at least a level of control amongst our citizens, because we have a responsibility to each other.

    In conclusion, I think that Chan is trying to make a reasonable point here. Remember – the media is subject to their own interpretations, so are everyone else. Everyone may interpret Chan’s comments in many different ways, like the commenters before me here. This is the classic example of Democracy and Freedom that we all so much enjoy. I am not saying Jackie Chan is right or wrong – but he has every right to say whatever he wants, but with that right comes with responsibility. A Marvel Comics writer/artist once wrote – “With Great Power comes with a Great Responsibility” (Please correct me if I phrased it wrong).

  19. ram catadman

    I find nothing wrong in Jackie Chan’s comment. The rewards of discipline outweighs the pain of disunity, selfishness, and lack of a unified direction all the time. Really, we can only enjoy freedom if it is responsibly limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the whole…

  20. phillip

    As I recall the visit of former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yu to the Philippines (1992), in his speech he mentioned “many of those who crave for democracy simply because its commonly interpreted as absolute freedom may drown in its delusion. An undisciplined country may not be ready for democracy”. Each Filipino does have discipline within them but refuses to abide and perform accordingly in public, could it simply be because the environment is not conducive? When one enters into the Subic or Clark economic zone what makes an individual suddenly obey the traffic rules even without the physical presence of a traffic officer? (ambiance)

  21. Mark

    I think we’re committing the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. This isn’t a choice between an absence of law/order and one where every single act is directed by law. A balance between the two can be made to achieve greater freedom for all.

    It is certainly correct that some law and order is necessary to constrain individuals for a free society to function (e.g. killing just cuz you feel like it). But that does not imply individuals are completely incapable of making their own decisions in other cases or that the gov’t is always better at making said decisions.

    In a sense Jackie is correct that the Chinese (in fact any people) require order. But that isn’t the problem. The problem is HOW MUCH order and in WHAT AREAS do we impose laws that constrain individuals while leaving others untouched.

    Economics has one useful insight: minimizing negative externalities. Simply put it means you FORCE individuals to face the consequences of THEIR OWN choices. Our democracy is screwed up because people have used it to subsidize their own irresponsible behavior. All people have to do is make a group large and noisy enough and the govt will give in to your demands. Paid for by the taxpayers. Nor is giving greater powers to govt going to minimize this. How often has your business or life been held hostage by a bureaucrat that just sits on his hands because he demands grease money? He doesn’t face the consequence of his choice, you do.

    You may not have freedom for long without responsible behavior. But you cannot expect people to take responsibility for choices they were not free to make either.

    Regarding the definition of freedom…
    There are two types that have been identified: negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom is the absence constraints to do what you want (e.g. nobody stops you from studying to be an engineer). Positive freedom is the presence of the means to act out what you want (e.g. you are given the financial ability to study engineering).

    Now I believe religions often emphasis positive freedom and don’t care much for negative freedom. Pope John Paul summed it up best by saying: “Freedom doesn’t mean to be able to do whatever you want, but to be able to do what you ought.” The problem here is, who defines what we “ought to do?”. The standard answer of course is God, the Bible, or something to that effect. But the practical problem is who interprets what God wants? History is replete with people claiming to have authority to do so. Usually, they end up as corrupt tyrants. I believe that we need to expand negative freedom because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and cannot be trusted with such power.

    Promoting negative freedom will not prevent people from behaving foolishly/sinfully nor will it bring heaven on earth, but what will? I’m wary of any ideology that promises such. The USA isn’t perfect, but the framers of its constitution has achieved a balance and a result that is better than any other system. As I see it, perfection isn’t the point. The point is can we come up with something better?

  22. Mark

    I would like to elaborate on:
    “…you cannot expect people to take responsibility for choices they were not free to make…” (man I wish there was an edit button here : ) )

    You cannot be held responsible for killing someone because he threatened your life and you had defend yourself. Your freedom to choose was limited.

    I would like to point out that responsible behavior can only be inculcated in an environment of freedom.

    Take China in the 1980s for example. My father went there and the people were VERY irresponsible. Why? Because they weren’t free to make their own choices. Some bureaucrat always made it for them. All they did was wait around till someone told em to do something to get paid. They were entitled to some agreed form of renumeration no matter what (positive freedom). Often, they would try to get away with doing nothing and expect to get paid nevertheless (that’s communism for you). Since then, China has made many free market reforms. People were now FREE to make their own choices, FREE to risk their own property, FREE to pursue their own careers BUT ALWAYS ALWAYS WERE FORCED TO FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR OWN FREE CHOICE.

    The result, NEGATIVE freedom taught them to behave responsibly. But it is crucial that people be FORCED to face the consequences of their own choices. This is what we need in our laws and constitution.

  23. Mark

    Sorry, sorry…

    The chinese in the 1980s were limited in their freedom by bureaucrats the same way a man defending his life is. Whatever consequences they faced, they can always blame it on the bureaucrat/killer who made the choice for them. By giving negative freedom, they would have no one else to blame if they made bad choices with bad consequences. Making good responsible choices were rewarded with good consequences. Hence freedom to choose one’s fate is necessary (BUT INSUFFICIENT) in teaching responsible behavior.

  24. Arnel Manas

    Freedom / democracy is big and wide responsibility its like a gun, as an owner, you should be responsible enough to used it but not to abused it.

  25. Joy

    Jackie Chan expressed his opinion. A lot of us may disagree, but we have to respect it.

  26. Epoy Pinoy

    Jackie Chan merely expresses his ideology about governance.

    Nobody can say that democracy is better than monarchy or vice versa. Or another form of governance is better than the other. It is a state of belief and thrust of the people in a particular place.

    Jewish people were governed by kings in Biblical times. Theocracy was the form of government. Since people there believe in God and the prophets, the form of government follows its people’s thrust how to govern themselves–following God’s orders and orders of the prophets and kings appointed by God himself.

    American people did not want anymore to be governed by the monarchs of England, thus, they formed their own form of government–democracy.

    Leaders in the past, like the Caesars of Rome, did not just come instantaneously. They were put by the people in their throne or authority, simply because the people wanted them to be governed as such.

    For me, it is more of an evolution and influence why a form of government is in place in a certain country.

    To “force” a form of government other than what the people therein believe is evil. It is the people in their own to choose which form of governance is appropriate for them. After all, what can a king, for instance do, if all the subjects do not anymore want to follow him?

    In the Philippines, the problem is we were not the ones who chose which form of government is appropriate. We just woke up one day that we have democracy in place, courtesy of the Americans. Previously, we were governed by the monarchs of Spain. The Filipinos now are confused which is the better form of governance.

    But since democracy is our current form of government, then we need to live with it. The problem now is that we do not know how to use it.

  27. jullian

    true freedom is freely to do what is right

Leave a Reply