HONG KONG action film star Jackie Chan this week joins China's top political advisory body in a move analysts say highlights Beijing's growing ''soft power'' efforts to project unity between itself and the former British colony.
But the 58-year-old actor faces a backlash in his home town where the mainland is viewed with increasing suspicion.
According to Professor Sonny Ho, co-director at the Centre for Greater China Studies, Chan was selected to appear at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) because his stardom could help promote ties. ''Jackie Chan is acting under the soft power and united front of the PRC [mainland] government,'' he said.
The ''united front'' strategy, he said, was a campaign to promote a strong and peaceful homeland, unified with Taiwan.
China's growing clout over the past decade has seen actors from Hong Kong and Macau drafted into patriotic movies that glorify the country's past, Professor Ho said.
However, the appointment of the martial arts star was met with derision online in Hong Kong where Chan's reputation has taken a nosedive in recent years over his pro-Beijing stances, such as calling for limits on the right to protest.
''Yet another movie star turns into a CPPCC member. Since when did this negative social trend become so popular?'' one user posted on the Sina Weibo website.
''Sure, add another big dope to a veritable congregation of big dopes,'' ''ianson'' commented on the South China Morning Post newspaper.
The CPPCC is a 2000-strong advisory body which includes China's other token political parties and a few celebrities, including former NBA basketball star Yao Ming.