Heung is known for founding Win’s Entertainment in the 1980s and 1990s powerhouse China Star Entertainment, the Hong Kong-listed production company and distributor that helped cement the stardom of Hong Kong cinematic icons such as Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat, Stephen Chow, Andy Lau, Johnnie To, and many more. In recent years, China Star has been more focused on the Macau gambling scene than production of new movies. Heung’s son Jacky is a rising action star.
The two had applied for permanent residence in Taiwan in December, according to the island’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees cross-straits policy. They had entered the country in September on three-month work visas, which could then be extended a further three months.
On Thursday, however, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) turned down their applications after weeks of review.
“We have decided not to approve their application in accordance with Article 22 of the Regulations Governing Permits for People from Hong Kong and Macau Setting up Residence or Permanent Residence in the Republic of China (Taiwan),” it said in a statement.
Article 22 states that residency applications will be refused to those determined to have committed crimes or who endanger national security and social order, engage in terrorist activities, or work for government, military or political party organizations in China. The NIA did not provide further detail about why it deemed that the Heungs’ application violated the article’s terms.
Both father and son are married to Taiwanese women, the elder Heung to Tiffany Chen Ming-ying, who was vice chairman of China Star alongside her husband, its chairman and CEO.
Their application for Taiwanese residence had sparked widespread discussion on the island, where the move was viewed by many as hypocritical given Heung’s previous public statements in support of the draconian new national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong that has sent thousands fleeing abroad in fear.
In the wake of that law, Taiwan set up a special office to deal with the residency applications of Hong Kongers seeking to move to its shores.
Charles Heung’s wife Chen has previously also spoken out against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Jacky Heung is a committee member for the All-China Youth Federation, part of China’s Communist Youth League.
Born in China’s Guangdong province, Charles Heung got his start as an actor mostly in kung fu films in Taiwan in the 1970s.
He has also for years been widely reported to have close ties to one of Hong Kong’s largest and most powerful triads, Sun Yee On, which was founded by his father Heung Chin in 1919. His older brother, the prominent film producer, director and host Jimmy Heung Wah-yim, was convicted by a seven-member jury in Hong Kong in 1988 of blackmail and managing the triad, and was identified as its leader in a 1992 U.S. Senate report on organized crime in Asia.
Taiwan’s MAC spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng said in a press conference Thursday that the council “respected the decision” of the NIA on the Heungs’ case, but that they could appeal or apply again.