Stars — even in a pandemic, they’re not like us.
As of the last few weeks, Hong Kong has some of the strictest Covid entry policies in the world. So when actress Nicole Kidman arrived in the country on August 12 in a private jet from Sydney to start work on her new Amazon series, she should have been required to complete three weeks of quarantine in a hotel. Instead, the 54-year-old was immediately seen out and about in the city, prompting widespread questions about how she was able to circumvent the rule.
Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said in a statement that the actress and some of her crew were granted special dispensation to forgo the requirement.
“The case in discussion has been granted permission to travel to Hong Kong with a quarantine exemption for the purpose of performing designated professional work,” the statement said, adding that the government “[took] into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”
According to the French news outlet France 24, Facebook support groups for those quarantining in Hong Kong have been filled with angry comments about the preferential treatment Kidman received. One pro-Beijing official said that she had been inundated with “concerns over the quarantine exemption granted by the government to actress Nicole Kidman.” She also revealed she has “received quite a number of complaints from Hong Kong residents.”
Ironically, the incident seems like it could be a storyline on the show Kidman is the country to film. Titled “Expats,” and based on a novel by Janice Y. K. Lee, it focuses on the lives of wealthy and privileged American women living in Hong Kong’s financial district.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the show is going into production “at a time of frequent arrests and daily political pressure on a flagging pro-democracy movement” and is being criticized as “tone-deaf.”
Mary Hui, a Quartz reporter who covers geopolitics and business in Asia, said on Twitter, “It’s bad enough that Amazon is backing two whole shows about the glam lives of [Hong Kong] ex-pats while many [Hong Kongers] are trying to flee a crackdown. Now add quarantine exceptionalism for Nicole Kidman, who apparently helps maintain’ the [Hong Kong] economy.”
France 24’s Hong Kong correspondent Oliver Farry quipped, “Allowing Nicole Kidman to skip quarantine to film a TV show that is certain to burnish Hong Kong’s image among impressionable Westerners at a time the city is locking Hongkongers up makes a lot of sense now.”
Finally, popular independent tech blogger Jane Manchun Wong observed, “Olympic medalists are required to quarantine in HK but Nicole Kidman doesn’t because she is a Hollywood star and needs to film ‘EXPATS’.”
So far neither Kidman nor Amazon has commented on the controversy.
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