Outcry in China as film star becomes Singapore citizen

 

CHINA'S LEADING lady, Gong Li, best known in Ireland for her roles in Memoirs of a Geishaand Miami Vice, has caused an outcry in China by becoming a Singaporean citizen.

Gong (43) embodies Chinese womanhood and is a symbol of national identity in the way Catherine Deneuve is an icon in France, so her decision to become a citizen of Singapore was bound to cause trouble.

State media ran images of the actor with her hand on her heart being sworn in at a ceremony alongside 149 others at the Teck Ghee Community Club in the island state, which has a large Chinese community. Her husband is Singapore businessman Ooi Hoe Seong, whom she married in 1996.

Angry bloggers said she was betraying her Chinese roots by changing nationality.

"She earned enough money in China, didn't she? Then she becomes a foreigner! Why do we make her money for her, just so she can take the money and run?" wrote one online commentator on Sina.com.

Another complained: "I'm disappointed in her. Why do rich and famous people all want to change their nationality?"

China Film Group said on its website that Gong was viewed internationally as the pride of China, and it could make Chinese audiences unhappy if she went on to win prizes abroad as a Singaporean star.

Gong was born in China's Liaoning province and for many years was the darling of the arthouse film circuit as the partner and leading lady of Zhang Yimou, an avant-garde director who later embraced the establishment and this year directed the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Gong was known as his muse and starred in his earlier, better movies, including Red Sorghumand Raise the Red Lantern, as well as Curse of the Golden Flowerin 2006, where her cleavage was a national talking point for weeks.

She had been scheduled to be sworn in as a Singaporean citizen in August, but failed to attend the ceremony.

In 1998, Gong was elected a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which is China's top political advisory body and is part of the country's annual parliamentary meeting, the National People's Congress. However, she fulfilled her requirement of attending two sessions and is no longer a member.

China does not recognise dual nationalities but, because of travel restrictions, many Chinese celebrities have taken citizenship elsewhere - action star Jet Li has US citizenship, as does director Chen Kaige.

Others opt to take Hong Kong citizenship, which is Chinese citizenship but without any travel restrictions.

Famous mainland-born Hong Kong residents include Gong's co-star in Memoirs of a Geisha, Zhang Ziyi, as well as pianist Lang Lang.

Stars in China also face hounding from fans on the street, but attract less attention in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore.