Jackie Chan shared some good news at group discussions of China’s top political advisory body — but it had nothing to do with his upcoming films.
As a member of the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, the Hong Kong movie star had proposed at last year’s annual session that celebrities in the industry use their social influence in the battle to alleviate poverty, in keeping with the sentiments of a long-standing national campaign.
This month, clutching a wad of thank-you letters from villagers from all over China, Chan seemed eager to prove it was not just idle talk last year.
In June, working with the movie channel of China Central Television, Chan initiated a program called Star Lights. One month later, he appeared in Datong — a city founded over 2,000 years ago in Shanxi province.
He was there not only for the International Jackie Chan Action Movie Week there but also to fulfill his commitment to help local villagers in the poverty-stricken countryside.
Crowds of curious villagers gathered to see the action star. When emotional grandmas hugged him and burst into tears of excitement, Chan understood their high expectations. “People were so warm receiving us,” he recalled. “But, frankly speaking, I was nervous because I didn’t know how I could help at first.”
However, picking day lilies in a field, he had an idea to help the villagers out of poverty.
“At that point, I felt a strong desire to promote their high-quality farm produce for them, for free, to improve their livelihoods,” he said.
From September to December, he organized 29 groups led by movie stars to visit 16 counties in poverty-stricken areas to expand his project.
Many A-list Chinese actors and actresses have joined Chan’s charity program, including Wu Jing, who starred in Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth — the two highest-grossing non-English movies of all time — and Li Bingbing, who was globally known for The Meg last year.
Chan’s Star Lights has been a beacon around the nation, ranging from mountainous area under Chongqing’s scorching sun to a village in Qinghai province that frequently shivers through subfreezing temperatures, Chan recalled.
A new store was opened on JD, a major online shopping platform, to sell produce promoted by the celebrities.
Some movie stars chose to return to their home provinces to help. When actress Tong Liya’s car approached a village in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Chan said, an aged villager stopped them, held her hands and said, “Thank you for coming to our place. All fruits and cakes are ready. You must visit my home and take a bite.”
He said Tong recounted that “she was so deeply touched at that moment that it was like her soul was shaken”.
Chan also had a lot to share about the past year’s achievements. “Tofu, duck eggs, potatoes and much more of their produce became really popular online,” Chan said.
In Jiaxian county, Shaanxi province, about 50 million kilograms of red dates were sold during the one-week National Day holiday in October, 2018, which was 20 percent more than in the same period in 2017, he said.
A kilogram of the dates sold for 2.4 yuan (36 US cents) during the holiday. The price was 1.4 yuan before.
In Jiangcheng county in Yunnan province, sales of local speciality farm produce increased 20 percent last year. In Namling county in the Tibet autonomous region, highland barley sold for 50 percent more.
Chan’s campaign has been widely publicized. Twenty-nine live online broadcasts following the stars’ steps in the countryside drew about 200 million views in total. “That can lead to a boom in countryside tourism as well,” Chan said. “Thanks to the media exposure, the local culture and natural environment also were shown to more people.”
Jiangcheng county’s local government told him that it received 30 percent more telephone inquiries than before asking about industrial development and offering more poverty-alleviation projects.
But Chan said last year’s achievements are only the start. He told China Daily that the project will continue this year and become a regular event covering more regions. “A documentary film will be screened in theaters to show the stars’ poverty-fighting endeavors,” he said.
For the moment, he has a new mission at hand. After arriving in Beijing for the annual session of the CPPCC National Committee, he heard that 2,000 tons of Jiangcheng county oranges had not sold. “It’s time for action again,” he said.