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China enlists Jackie Chan to kick off political meeting

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Film star Jackie Chan joined other celebrities Sunday at a meeting of China's top political advisory body, a move seen by analysts as an attempt by the ruling Communist Party to cultivate "soft power".

Nobel literature prizewinner Mo Yan and basketball star Yao Ming also attended the annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), organised by the party.

The Hong Kong actor's participation in the meeting has been strongly criticised by some in his native city.

The martial arts star provoked a furious fight-back last December after reportedly suggesting in a Chinese magazine interview that protests in Hong Kong should be restricted.

And in 2009, he landed in hot water for telling a forum that "we Chinese need to be controlled".

The 58-year-old, famous in the West for the "Rush Hour" series and "Police Story", kept a low profile outside the meeting.

"I have no way of speaking now, we don't have enough time to elaborate," he told a scrum of reporters.

Chan, wearing a black shirt and glasses, said he was "very happy" before boarding a bus with Mo Yan, who also attended the meeting as one of 2,000 delegates making suggestions to China's government.

Photos published by state news agency Xinhua also showed towering basketball star Yao Ming alongside other delegates packed into Beijing's cavernous Great Hall Of The People alongside president-to-be Xi Jinping.

Xi, currently head of the Communist Party, will be formally appointed president during a meeting of the National People's Congress, or legislature, which starts on Tuesday.

Chan, who has made efforts to boost his profile in China and endorsed products including hair dye, praised the Chinese film industry and said the country's films had won "many big awards".

But he avoided answering further questions.

The CPPCC is purely an advisory body with little political clout, but is given a high profile as part of efforts by the ruling party to present its leadership as consultative and democratic rather than hierarchical.

Its hundreds of delegates include prominent citizens such as scientists, business owners and artists, and some non-communists.

Professor Sonny Ho, co-director at Hong Kong's Centre for Greater China Studies, has said Chan was selected to attend the CPPCC because it was thought his stardom could help promote ties with Hong Kong.

Many in the former British colony, which is now a semi-autonomous territory of China, are wary of Beijing's perceived interference in its domestic affairs.

"Jackie Chan is acting under the soft power and united front of the PRC (mainland) government," Ho said last week. The "united front" strategy, he said, was a campaign to promote a strong and peaceful homeland, unified with Taiwan.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130303/china-enlists-jackie-chan-kick-political-meeting