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The Jackie Chan Controversy: His Ignored Child & Other Allegations, Explained

Jackie Chan is the long-standing poster boy for hilarious and creative martial arts action. Chan's best and worst movies alike showcase his dedication to the craft, but privately, he's sometimes failed to live up to the cheerful and affable charisma he radiates onscreen. 

Perhaps the most prominent scandal in Chan's personal life came out in 1999, when the married actor's affair with Elaine Ng Yi-Lei led to the birth of a daughter, Etta. The news was revealed when Ng was still pregnant, and was a massive blow to the star's image. "I'm not a saint. I've done something wrong," Chan said in a press conference (via Asia Week). "I've done something that many men in the world have done. Maybe it was a moment of playfulness. If the child is mine, I'll take responsibility for it." However, Ng specifically stated that she wasn't looking for anything from Chan and intended to raise the child alone.

Chan was uncharacteristically confrontational during the press conference, accusing the media of stalking him and framing the affair as just a guy thing. Perhaps related to the scandal, his popularity took a drop in the eyes of the Hong Kong public, though as his enduring following proves, his career was far from done. As for his estranged daughter, she doesn't think much of Chan. "He is not my dad. I have no feelings for him. He is my biological father but he is not in my life," Etta Ng said in 2015 (via Express). In 2018, she accused both of her parents — as well as the society at large — of homophobia that had contributed to her financial difficulties and left her and her partner at least temporarily homeless.

Jackie Chan has admitted he's not father of the year material

Jackie Chan has rarely spoken about his affair, and when he has, he's focused on its impact on his marriage. "When the news broke about an affair I'd had that resulted in a child, the media frenzy was like a bomb going off," he wrote in his 2015 autobiography, "Never Grow Up." (via People). "I wanted to phone [my wife] Joan but I didn't know what to say. I wouldn't be able to explain this. It wasn't a mistake I could fix just by saying, 'I'm sorry.'"

Chan has been more open about his failings as a father to his only child from his marriage, Jaycee Chan. In the book, he admitted to physically manhandling the boy when he was just 2 years old. "I picked him up with one hand and flung him across the room, and he crashed into the sofa," the actor wrote (via CNN). "With the amount of force I used, if he'd hit the back or armrests, it could have been quite serious."

In later years and following Jaycee's six-month prison sentence for drug charges in China, Chan revealed that he had been a strict, uninvolved parent for a long time, but had mellowed out. "I was too Chinese, traditional — you, son, go away, I don't want to help you, you have to help yourself," Chan said about his relationship with Jaycee in 2015 (via Associated Press). He explained that the experience of making 2010's "The Karate Kid" opposite Jaden Smith opened his eyes to another way of parenting; Will Smith was constantly present on the set to help his son. However, he still held the opinion that prison had been a good experience for his son's personal growth. 

Jackie Chan did several unsavory things during the early stages of his fame

Jackie Chan's autobiography "Never Grow Up" reveals that offscreen, the star was far from the affable, high-kicking goof he portrayed in his films — at least, in the initial stages of his career. He already partied hard during his early stuntman days, and when he first came to money, he used copious sums on things like expensive cars and watches. He admits in the book that he crashed more than one of his cars while inebriated. 

"I drunk drove all the time," Chan wrote (via CNN). "In the morning, I'd crash my Porsche, then in the evening, I'd total a Mercedes-Benz. All day long, I went around in a haze." He also admitted to threatening photographers with violence if they attempted to take pictures of the crashes. In his later years, he's come to recognize how unpleasant his behavior was when he was young. "I really was quite a nasty jerk," he wrote in the book. 

Chan has made controversial comments over the years

The untold truth of Jackie Chan is full of surprises, and the same can be said about his penchant of making occasional disagreeable comments. In a 1997 interview on "Late Night with David Letterman," Chan's real-life friend and history-making Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh revealed that Chan has expressed some fairly sexist views over the years, including when she was breaking into the martial arts movie industry. "He's actually a male chauvinistic pig," Yeoh said and laughed when Letterman asked if Chan had helped her on her first steps to martial arts stardom (via YouTube). "Jackie and I are very good friends, I say this to him to his face. He always believes that women should stay at home, and cook, and don't do anything, and be the victim."

In 2009, Chan courted controversy in China when he spoke at the Boao Forum, an economic meeting of the country's powerful people, and revealed an authoritarian streak. "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled," he said (via The New York Times). "If we are not being controlled, we'll just do what we want." The comments drew much attention, and many people — including in his native Hong Kong — painted him as a government stooge.