Chinese actor and film producer Jackie Chan has triggered criticism after shooting scenes from his new action movie in a Syrian town that was leveled by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
“Home Operation,” directed by Song Yinxi, and produced by Chinese and Emirate production companies, tells the story of the 2015 evacuation of Chinese nationals from Yemen at the beginning of the war. The Chinese operation was a rare operation that resulted in the extrication of 225 Chinese and foreign citizens from the conflict.
The war zone scenes were shot on the ruins of Hajar Al Aswad, a Damascus suburb that was destroyed by the Assad regime after years of being a stronghold for the Syrian opposition rebels.
In 2015, ISIS controlled a large area from the town, but after three years of fighting, the Assad regime reclaimed the city with the support of Russian airpower and the Palestinian militias stationed in the area – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – who followed scorched-earth policy against civilian and military targets.
Residents of Hajar Al Aswad fled their town after it was captured by the Assad regime and Palestinian militias, leaving behind homes now being used by a Chinese production company as an inexpensive filming location.
Ayman Abdelnour, a Middle East Institute analyst told ALL ARAB NEWS that the film is an attempt to praise the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operation and boost its reputation, but using a war zone where thousands were killed has backfired.
“Syrians were outraged to see a destroyed city that symbolizes Assad’s brutality to turn into an open studio for the CCP propaganda” Ayman Abdelnour said.
Abdelnour noted that the Syrian government received payments from the production company to use the city – illegal since Assad is sanctioned and the destroyed buildings are not owned by the government but by the residents of the city who had to flee.
“It’s going to be hard for the indigenous people of the city to watch their homes, and their memories be turned into a movie that benefits the Assad regime financially while whitewashing another dictatorship,” Abdelnour added.
Abdelnour thinks that the absence of a coherent U.S. strategy for Syria is allowing China and Russia to dominate the political narrative in Syria and beyond.
Ahed Al Hendi, program director of the Heracles group which works in development fields in Syria and Yemen where his organization has accessed many areas that was destroyed by the war, told ALL ARAB NEWS that the Chinese movie was originally going to be filmed in Yemen, but the company choose Syria due to its relationship with the regime and the country’s affordability.
“It is sickening to see your illegally confiscated property used by greedy companies to make money,” he said. “The movie – based on true story with lot of poetic license aimed to boost the image of the Chinese regime – was going to be filmed in Yemen, but it sounds that Assad regime is finding other avenues to exploit his war-torn country to bring more avenues in addition to his trade in (the drug) Captagon.”
Over the years, Chan himself has been vocal in his support for the CCP as well as his controversial views against Hong Kong’s autonomy.