HONG KONG — HIV charity organization amfAR has issued an apology statement over the weekend for an incident that caused actor Donnie Yen and his family to feel discriminated against and leave the Hong Kong edition of the fund-raiser abruptly.
“It is most regrettable and unfortunate that I was not able to prevent the embarrassment caused to our esteemed co-chair Mr. Donnie Yen and his family and for any mishandling [that] has caused them to feel they were being disrespected in any way,” read part of a statement signed by Kevin Robert Frost, amfAR chief executive officer.
“I sincerely look forward to having the opportunity in working closely with the Yen family again, and hopefully, to reach a better understanding of how improvements can be made.”
The martial arts star, who last fall launched his eyewear line DonniEye, had shown up to the annual red carpet fundraiser held last week. Backed by Macau gambling heiress Pansy Ho, this year’s event was honoring Adrian Cheng’s philanthropy work in the battle against HIV, drawing celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Michelle Yeoh and Nicole Scherzinger.
But simmerings of the drama were revealed when Yen’s wife, former beauty queen Cissy Wang, wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that they had faced racial discrimination.
“Tonight we experienced discrimination by an organization from overseas. Prioritized and supported a charity but in return, we were shocked by how we were treated,” Wang wrote, adding the hashtag “Chinese are not the sick men of Asia.” Wang also drew parallels of the family’s experience to the discrimination depicted in the film “Green Book.”
According to local media reports, Wang said staff at first did not allow them to enter the venue and were unhappy with their seating as they had been given a table that was far from the stage. Wang felt that Hollywood and Korean pop stars were treated very differently to Chinese guests. “I think they simply look down on us Chinese,” Wang said, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
Although Yen, his wife, and daughter Jasmine Yen, walked the red carpet, they left not long after, before the gala properly got underway. Wang told Ming Pao that she felt she had to leave in order to set a good example for her daughter, adding they would not return to subsequent amfAR events.