HONG KONG — Faced with a threat to his livelihood, what’s an action star to do? If you’re Jackie Chan, you lead about 150 actors, directors and producers in a protest march to the Legislative Council over a bill that they say will destroy the territory’s already beleaguered film industry.
Protesters whipped an effigy of a copyright pirate in front of the government building, while Chan tried to whip up enthusiasm by posing for photos with legislators.
At stake is an unenforced British-based law that makes it a criminal act for anyone other than authorized agents to import videos and CDs. The legislature is considering a proposal that would decriminalize what is known as paral-lel importation — in part because no such importers have been charged in at least 10 years. Civil suits would be permitted, but no punitive damages are allowed in Hong Kong.
“This will put a knife into the local industry,” Motion Picture Industry Assn. chief exec Woody Tsung told Daily Variety. “We’re not trying to put people in jail, but we do want to protect our interests.”
The protesters face opposition from consumer activists and video rental outfits who say limits on parallel imports restrict free trade and reduce consumer choice. A parallel-import vid from the U.S., for instance, costs about half the price of a legal video.
The Legislature, which will be dissolved July 1 when Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule, is expected to vote on the bill by June.