She married Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Soeng in 1996 and has spent more time abroad, mostly in Hollywood.
But Chinese netizens branded the 43-year-old star of "Red Sorghum", "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" as a traitor. China doesn't allow its residents to have dual citizenship, which meant Li had to give up her Chinese passport.
“All traitors will be nailed to history’s mast of shame," said one. "We should resolutely reject any further contact with such people.”
Another fumed: “Traitors like this don’t even love their own country. These people were only fake countrymen of ours. Let them slink off to other countries and die!”However, there were a few who defended her, saying: “Why doesn’t anyone ask why people want to emigrate? We see one Chinese person after another taking U.S. citizenship. Why don’t we see Americans taking Chinese citizenship?”
Another argued that if given a chance, many others would do the same. “My compatriots, as you blab here, can you really say you love your country? Ask yourself are you not moths as well?”
The fervent reaction from people shows defensive nationalism still runs deep and they'd rather easily attack others than quietly accept that if people have the opportunity, they may want to change their citizenship for ease of travel or other reasons.
Who cares what passport she carries? I'm sure Li will always consider herself Chinese and be proud to be Chinese.
Many other Chinese stars have different passports too. Action star Jet Li is an American, as is director Chen Kaige. Actress Zhang Ziyi has Hong Kong citizenship, but if she marries an American -- as the rumours go -- she might become American too.