Jackie Chan-produced action movie films in devastated Syrian city

A Chinese action film executive-produced by Jackie Chan has triggered outrage after shooting scenes in al-Hajar al-Aswad, a Syrian town destroyed in the civil war.

Home Operation, directed by Song Yinxi, is inspired by China’s evacuation of hundreds of its nationals from Yemen in 2015 during the civil conflict there, and is the first joint venture between Chinese and Emirati producers. AFP reported that Song said the film was intended to glorify the Chinese Communist party (CCP): “It takes the perspective of diplomats who are Communist party members, who braved a hail of bullets in a war-torn country and safely brought all Chinese compatriots on to the country’s warship unscathed.”

Photographs from the film’s set show Chinese crew and actors working among shattered and derelict buildings, a tank, and local extras wearing Yemeni-style clothing. Feng Biao, China’s ambassador to Syria, appeared at a ceremony to launch the shoot.

The New Arab quoted Syrian journalist Fared al-Mahlool saying: “It is shameful to film such films on the ruins of Syrian homes that were destroyed by the Assad regime, Russia and Iran … the Chinese fascist regime is an ally of Syria, and they are trying to whitewash their crimes in actions like this.” Charles Lister, director of the Middle East Institute’s Syria Program, said on social media: “1,000s, if not 10,000s died at the hands of #Assad’s regime & later #ISIS in al-Hajar al-Aswad. To exploit that for money – for a movie lauding #China & involving #Syria’s regime facilitation is appallingly bad taste.”

Al-Hajar al-Aswad is 4km south of Damascus, near the former Yarmouk refugee camp. In 2012, early in the Syrian civil war, the area was a stronghold for anti-government rebels the Free Syrian Army; in 2015, however, the surrounding area was largely taken over by Islamic State. After three years of fighting, the area was captured by government forces in 2018, with the help of Palestinian militias and Russian air attacks. Throughout the conflict China has maintained diplomatic support for Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.

Hong Kong-born Chan has a history of supporting the CCP, telling a conference of business leaders in 2009: “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.”

The Guardian

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