Keanu Reeves has drawn the wrath of nationalists in China after it was revealed earlier this week that he will perform at an upcoming Tibet benefit concert.
Some chauvinistic Chinese social media users, known locally as “Little Pinks,” have gone so far as to claim that Reeve was recently released The Matrix: Resurrection should be boycotted in retaliation.
The newest Matrix However, the film had already flopped before the revelations about Reeve’s involvement in the pro-Tibet event in China – the film started with just $7.5 million and has grossed $12.4 million to date – so that the sudden outrage for the Warner Bros. Bottom line of the title.
The potentially more concerning factor for Reeve’s career is whether he will become a de facto persona non grata in the Chinese entertainment landscape going forward. Many Western celebrities have seen their personal brands banned from China’s vast entertainment market after previously expressing support for Tibet.
Richard Gere was banned from Chinese screens for years for his vocal support for Tibet, a fact he said lost film deals in Hollywood, where studios previously coveted the growth potential of the Chinese market. Brad Pitt was also banned for nearly two decades after starring in the film Seven years in Tibet in 1997. Lady Gaga has been virtually banned from performing in the country since meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016.
It was announced this week that Reeves will be a featured performer at the 35th Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert on March 3 alongside artists such as Patti Smith, Trey Anastasio and Jason Isbell. Legendary composer Philip Glass will serve as the artistic director of the concert.
Founded in 1987, Tibet House is a New York-based non-profit educational organization dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. The group was founded by supporters of the Dalai Lama and Beijing authorities have described it as a separatist organization campaigning for Tibetan independence. China regards the culturally unique Tibetan region as an integral part of its national territory, and any suggestion of Tibetan independence is seen as an affront to the country’s sovereignty.
Reeves had previously amassed a significant following in China, thanks both to his Chinese ancestry and to the fact that he was filming his directorial debut. Tai Chi man, in the country, with support from the state-backed China Film Group.