Charmaine Sheh Embroiled in Controversy after Commenting on Hong Kong Extradition Protest
In Hong Kong last Sunday, one million people took to the streets to protest against a proposed extradition bill that would allow the transfer of people accused of crimes to Mainland China, where they could be at risk for ill-treatment and unfair trials. While many Hong Kong artistes avoided commenting on the political issue, Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼) created a controversy when she showed support to the protest, and then later retracted her support after backlash from Mainland netizens.
Angered Mainland Netizens
Although Instagram is banned in Mainland China, a screenshot of Charmaine liking an Instagram post of the political protest was circulated on the Internet. Many Mainland netizens scolded Charmaine for her political stance on the issue and many demanded to ban Charmaine from China’s entertainment industry.
Eager to explain herself, Charmaine later posted her political stance on social media, “After work, I have a habit of browsing my friends’ Instagram. I browsed through a known photographer’s work and gave him a compliment. I was extremely shocked when I realized the content of the picture, and retracted my compliment. I, Charmaine Sheh, love the country and love Hong Kong. I don’t want others to over interpret this matter. Thank you everyone.”
Disappointed Hong Kong Netizens
Charmaine’s quick action caught the attention of many Hong Kong netizens who reminded Charmaine of her roots in Hong Kong, and questioned her loyalty and conscience. Disappointed by Charmaine’s actions, many Hong Kong netizens even quoted a scene from Charmaine’s drama, When Heaven Burns <天與地>, “This city is dying, you know.”
The popular drama, When Heaven Burns, was first aired in 2011 and gained a strong following for its daring themes that did not shy away from expressing dissatisfaction in the society. Much of the Hong Kong audience praised Charmaine’s character for her many memorable quotes that reflect the audience’s values and are still relevant to this day.
As many Hong Kong netizens believe Charmaine’s character in the drama embodies their sentiments in the turbulent political climate, they are vastly disheartened to see Charmaine withdrawing her support on the political issue.
This article was revised on June 15, 2019 at 9:09 a.m. to reflect updated figures from protest organizers that one million people protested on the streets against the proposed extradition bill last Sunday.
This article is written by Sammi for JayneStars.com.
please get your facts right. a million people went to protest…
Also, 天與地 English title is When Heaven Burns. NOT Heaven and Earth, which it just seems like you directly translated. A simple google search would’ve helped.
@citygal it’s not a fact that one million joined the protest. the figure was reported by the organisers and it could have been vastly inflated. the police estimated 240,000.
If we include the people sitting at home supporting in front of their TV sets then there might be a million….
@jimmyszeto so there were 6 million against the protest?
The massive protest gave me the goosebumps & i was in awe at the sight of 1.03 million HK ppl standing up to say NO to this new law which, if legislated into law, might be misused by China in future to haul up some ppl they don’t like. Hongkongers would have to self censor & lose their freedom of expression. This is definitely different from the Occupy Protest which did not have full support of HK ppl & overseas chinese.
Charmaine’s quick u-turn is obviously a bread and butter issue & to save her acting career in mainland. Nothing wrong with that. It just that she should hv provided her support discreetly.
@ross Yea, she should definitely have known better given the never-ending tension between HK and Mainland. It’s sad that HK has come to this (where a celebrity can’t even express their views without getting lambasted), but that’s the reality of the environment we live in. To be honest, it’s gotten to the point where celebrities might as well shut down their social media accounts so they don’t have to worry about accidentally posting something offensive to Mainland China.
Seriously though, the actions of these Mainland netizens illustrate exactly why the massive protests in HK going on currently are necessary (there was another protest this past Sunday with supposedly 2 million Hong Kongers in attendance). If anything, they’re giving more ammo to the movement rather than helping their Communist rulers suppress it.
British rulers banned any type of demonstration under sedition laws. Those who protested in the 60s were deported to china.
It seems HKers now have the freedoms that did not exist before ’89.
@msxie0714 The Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in 1989 changed a lot of things, not just in China but in Hong Kong and around the world. Sure, it’s been 30 years and during that time, China has somewhat successfully been able to wipe that “incident” away in their own history books, but that doesn’t mean others outside of China don’t remember and/or know what happened. I was around back then and I remember when the protests and massacre in ‘89 happened, the entire HK entertainment industry came out in full force to support the demonstrators and condemn the Mainland government for their actions (not to mention that was the first time in HK history that over a million Hong Kongers marched out in the streets)….now 30 years later, the HK entertainment industry has deteriorated to the point where a HK celebrity can’t even like a social media post mentioning current protests without being lambasted and receiving backlash (worse yet, majority of HK entertainers aren’t even allowed to speak up, so great is their fear about losing the Mainland China market).
So far, the only big name HK celebrity who has dared to comment on the extradition law protests is Anthony Wong (of course)….everyone else has kept silent for the most part, as most of them probably learned their lesson from the Occupy protests, where such natural human behavior as expressing sympathy for protestors who had gotten hurt or died (which is technically NOT taking any political stance) earned them a spot on Mainland’s blacklist. It’s sad what HK has become….
@llwy12 It’s very tragic that TAM happened, and hopefully future leaders of China will acknowledge and apologize for this sad page in history. A more brutal student massacre deserving attention occurred in 1980 at Gwangju S. Korea. The executions were horrific and the casualty rate was in the thousands. For obvious geopolitical reasons, the Korean massacre hasn’t gotten any media attention or annual memorials. RIP to all forgotten victims of violence around the world
Charmaine should know better than to get involve. Looks like this will be the end of her. If they do ban her in China, it won’t be a huge loss and she won’t be missed. Her acting is not that great anyway. Looks like she might need to crawl back to TVB or focus on her business ventures.
@sol365 indeed China won’t miss her since her acting sucks anyway but she would definitely miss China since her livelihood now depends on it. Ah well unless she wants to downgrade & come back to TVB
Agreed that Charmaine should have known better not to get involved with China, specifically when acting career is on a arise!
On a separate note, Here for supporting correct information.
the actual English title for “天與地” is “When Heaven Burns”. The theme song for “天與地” is Heaven and Earth by Paul Wong.
Also Jayne has coverage on 天與地” as well.
Did I read right? She just liked the instagram post right? She is from HK. She has a right to her own opinion even if politics, She didn’t really voice out anything,she did it by action. Anyway she shouldn’t have bothered. China issue is sticky issue.
@funnlim Chinese netizens are extremely petty. They go to all lengths to punish people, especially if you hurt their national pride.
But, I also understand why she retracted her comment. She is relying on work in China now not HK.
A lot of national pride is taught and brainwashed into them anyway. They know deep within themselves that they are not genuinely proud…
@jimmyszeto I think you are thinking too black and white. Western countries like US, Canada and Britain does the same does that mean they are brainwashed? China just go to overboard with it.
it’s no big deal if we call the Govt by any sort of name here to show our disgust. We aren’t so patriotic and have our own views but can become united during events. However in China, even a struggling peasant will chant ‘I Love China’ and the peasant is still a struggling peasant and he won’t know why he loves China….
@megamiaow same in hong kong. you will get flamed for supporting the hk government.you can’t win either way so hk artistes just keep their political views to themselves
Agree on that. A few years ago, an international artiste from ny hometown openly declared support for an allegedly corrupt ex leader, prompting calls for boycott of her movies. It is best to keep a ‘no comment’ stance on political affiliation.
@ross Yes, that’s true, but at least the artist was allowed to speak up for one, and two, the threat of a boycott in Western countries such as the U.S. and Canada really doesn’t hold much water because of the diversity of opinions over here….it’s different in China because practically its entire population has been “taught” to march to the same tune. This is why whenever anyone says anything remotely negative about China, the Chinese government doesn’t need to lift a finger because it already knows that its 1.3 billion “patriotic” citizens will come out in full force to make that person’s life a living hell. This is also why most HK celebrities who rely on the Mainland market don’t speak up — because the threat to take away that market and ruin those artists careers (amongst other things) is very real…
@llwy12 i bet a good portion of those patriotic citizens are also china bots “wu maos” who are trying to earn a quick buck. these protesting exercises are great and all, but come 2047, nothing they do will make much of a difference. not to mention, china doesn’t give a crap about extradition. if they want someone in HK, they’ll just kidnap them and bring them back to China. all this protesting feels more like a show of civil disobedience than actually caring about their rights. and the reason why the west even cares is because should China want to “extradite” foreigners and keep their assets frozen, they no longer have to go through legal channels. not that they cared much about that in the first place.
the only way out is if they uproot governance of china from the inside out. that probably means some sort of civil war. i don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime though.
@coralie Yup, that’s true, though 2047 is still a long ways off….no doubt that Hong Kongers are trying to hold on to as much of the “one country, two systems” thing as they can for the remaining 28 years. And yes, the international opposition to the bill from other countries is primarily due to the fear of their own citizens getting whisked off to China for no good reason other than they can (or possibly some corrupt Chinese official had a grudge against someone many years ago and would be able to “legally” exact payback)….but there actually IS more at stake for the other countries too though, since Hong Kong is a major financial / business hub and trading port that has always functioned independently from Mainland (and a lot of it is in writing via international treaties with other countries – for example, the U.S. has a trade agreement with HK that grants it special privileges on the basis of its autonomy)….I had read somewhere that one of the main reasons the HK government / Central government in Beijing agreed to back down / soften their approach wasn’t really because of the protests (because, as you correctly stated, both HK and Mainland government don’t give a crap what the ordinary HK people think/feel/want), but rather, they got wind that a lot of the HK tycoons and Chinese elite who have business interests in HK were transferring their assets offshore due to the chaos, which meant that government officials’ personal wealth would be affected if all the rich people bailed from HK and took their businesses with them.
And yes, you are absolutely correct that truly the only way out is to uproot China governance of HK and that’s never going to happen….unless China decides to rescind the “one country, two systems” thing early, we are basically looking at 28 more years of this protest stuff….
@llwy12 Ah I see what you’re saying. China doesn’t want to step on any toes because HK is still a cash cow. The reason they’re able to siphon money from HK is because of the international financial treaties in place due to HK’s special identity. But its identity is staked on the premise that China and HK operates under the “One Country Two Systems” rule.
But everyone knows this rule will eventually expire in 2047. The elites & affluent parties are already alert to this, so they must be making preparations to leave before then. If anything, having China encroach on HK right now makes sense; they can freeze all foreigner assets if the money is all they’re after. It doesn’t make sense for them to back down?
@coralie Actually, they’re not thinking about foreigners’ assets, but rather their own. Backing down is pretty much to prevent HK from descending into chaos, as both HK and Mainland government underestimated the public’s response (a response that was historic to say the least – even bigger than during Occupy) and it’s obvious that the protestors this time around are not going to just “go away” that easily. A large part of HK’s existence as a thriving city is predicated on the fact that it is an international financial hub, which in turn is propped up by the wealthy big business elites and tycoons, most of whom are “well-connected” in Beijing (think “influential” government connections….for example, the Li Ka Shing, Lee Shau Kee, Joseph Lau of the world…). What makes these protests different from all the previous ones (i.e. Occupy and whatnot) is that there is actually widespread opposition to the bill across most of HK’s business community (which is understandable given the skeletons in the closets of some of those business elites and they certainly wouldn’t be exempt if Beijing were to come after them), so even if they don’t support the protestors per se, it’s in their best interests as well for the bill not to get passed. Since the protestors aren’t going to back down, if things really do descend into chaos (which could happen given the clash between police and protestors on Wednesday as well as CE Carrie Lam’s harsh stance), most likely the elites and tycoons are going to be the first ones to flee and take their money as well as businesses (or what’s left of their businesses) with them (which means that the corrupt officials on the Mainland side who either have assets themselves in HK or are “connected” to those who do would be adversely affected as well). If the bill doesn’t get passed and things pretty much remain status quo until 2047, most of the tycoons / elite / officials, etc. would be dead by then probably so whatever happens won’t concern them (plus the added benefit of being able to continue siphoning the money for another 28 years, of course)….
@llwy12 Initially i wanted to scoff at the ‘descend into chaos’ descriptor, because it’s still gonna happen in 28 years. delaying the inevitable is an exercise in futility. even if the affluent parties die, their descendants living on will also cultivate those same relationships and exert the same pressure on mainland. nothing will change.
however, i am then reminded that the U.S. started with rebellion and riots against their motherland. gandhi won independence from the british with peaceful civic disobedience and MLK ended racial segregations with a speech. never say never.
@coralie I came across this article that explains in more detail why the business community is supporting the protests this time around whereas they wouldn’t support previous ones…makes for some interesting reading: https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3014982/business-sectors-opposition-hong-kongs-extradition-bill-should-have
@llwy12 yes, definitely a good read. and very interesting, thanks for the article!
it sheds some light on why this is a big deal to international investors/businesses right now and why china doesn’t want to upset the status quo – if only to keep the international financial hub near China for easier access and moving capital. it’s all business at the end of the day – though it seems to me that this is not a long term solution. if China wants to keep this relationship going, it won’t be able to completely unify HK with the mainland. this is a complete deterrent to what China wants to accomplish. i guess the question now is, are they willing to sacrifice financial stability for the sake of unification and control. they might be spooked from making a move…but China’s tenacious. even if they don’t gain anything from this round, they’ll find another corner to chip until unification happens and the complete handover is nothing more than ceremony.
@coralie You’re welcome! 🙂
Yup….and to your point earlier, that’s pretty much why Hong Kongers are fighting so hard right now against anything that they view as “encroachment” on their freedoms, despite the fact that it’s going to be futile anyway come 2047…..alot of it comes down to principle yes, but the international business implications play a huge role as well. Basically, China promised to keep things the same until 2047 – and that promise wasn’t just made to HK, but to the international community as well (the piece I brought up earlier about the international trade agreements with other countries based on HK’s special status), so by virtue of trying to exert control prior to the agreed upon date, China is essentially reneging on their contractual obligations….this is also the reason why much of the international community (U.S., Europe, etc.) is watching what happens too (even though they are careful not to interfere outright because China hates other countries getting involved in their affairs) because it could mean those trade agreements may need to be changed.
Regarding the part about China not being able to completely unify HK with Mainland – they actually can, they just have to wait until 2047 to do it, since, after all, they were the ones who came up with that promise in the first place. That’s why in a way, they can’t blame HK for reacting the way they did (and will continue to do no doubt), since technically China is the one in the wrong for trying to exert control before the promised timeframe.
@llwy12 yes, i mean china can do anything to HK. it will be theirs completely in 2047 anyways. the problem is IF they want to keep the business relationship going with international communities, then they’ll need to compromise on their policies – policies special only to HK, which means it won’t be a complete merger with mainland. it’ll still be regarded as a “special territory.” the real question right now is how much do they care about jeopardizing the financial hub in HK. but maybe that’s a moot point since like you mentioned, they can just start multiple rounds of trade agreements until the international community is happy to stay put in HK even under China’s complete domination. i still can’t see how that’s possible without making HK a “special territory” though…
Politics is dangerous and polarizing no matter where or when. How many pro-Trump entertainers in Hollywood dare to openly support him for fear of being slammed and blacklisted? That’s not unlike the McCarthy blacklist of alleged communist film makers during the 50’s.
@msxie0714 I am going to interject in here to say that is not an equal comparison. Pro-Trump entertainers are not having their rights infringed upon. Kayne is doing just fine. It’s the LGBTQ and the separated families with children in cages that are being attacked.
@msxie0714 I agree with @potatochip. The situation in Hong Kong cannot be compared to what is going on in Western countries because the dynamics are very different….you are essentially comparing apples to oranges.
I think before making comparisons, people need to first read up on what is happening because the whole thing is a lot more complicated than most people who haven’t been following the situation closely may think.
Here’s an article that I think so far does the best job of summarizing the whole situation in terms of why the protests occurred in the first place (@coralie this is another good read): https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3015486/hong-kong-extradition-protests-reveal-deep-rooted-problems-need
Well, well, well isn’t this absolutely annoying and petty. Although I understand where the mainland netizens are coming from, they clearly have no desire to see artists express their political opinions. Aren’t we all human? This type of censorship is unreasonable, but unsurprisingly very mainland haha. Isn’t this similar to what HK was protesting in the first place (be honest, no BS, plz)? We can all still have different opinions and enjoy the capitalist money making machine of the entertainment industry.
Naturally, Charmaine should have exercised better judgment here considering her profession and the political climate. But the bullying behavior of the netizens is embarrassing.
that’s why the wise say never talk about politics as an artist b/c whichever side you don’t agree w/ will despise you.
It is a bread and butter issue for her….she should have known better. However great that she is supporting the HK…its a serious issue and people in HK has done the right thing
Politics is a dangerous game. As a public figure, no matter which side you support, you will receive backlash. Unless you can pick a side and weather the storm, don’t let other sway you and stand firm on your believe, otherwise stay silent. Flip flopping makes it even worse.
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