- “You seem as if you like to talk. I like to let people talk, who like to talk. It makes it easier to find out how full of shit they are.”
- ―Lee to Carter
- “I always dreamed of going to Madison Square Gardens, to see The Knicks play.”
- ―Lee to Carter
- “I understand. I got a brother, too. My little brother, Perry. We used to be best friends. Now we don't even speak. He thinks I tipped off the cops about the chicken fights in his garage. Can you believe that? My own brother think I'm a snitch. Just because my chicken lost in the semifinals. I didn't even really care.”
- ―Carter to Lee
Chief Inspector Lee (full name: Jonathan Yan Naing Lee) is one of two main protagonists of the Rush Hour series. He is a Chief Inspector with the Hong Kong Police Force. Lee appears in all three of the films. He is partnered with Detective James Carter, who at first doesn't get along with, but later befriends. Lee is portrayed by Jackie Chan.
Before The Series
Not much is known about Lee before the series but it is known that his father was a legendary cop in Hong Kong who Lee claimed once caught a bullet with his bare hands. His father later investigated an international smuggling case with his partner Ricky Tan (whom Lee met and befriended during his teen years). But when he discovered Tan worked for the Triads he attempted to tell his superior but Tan confronted Lee's father at gun point. When his father begged Tan to promise not to kill his son, Tan was upset by this so he shot Lee's father dead. The evidence disappeared the case was never solved and Tan resigned from the force. Lee also mention growing up in an orphanage with a foster brother named Kenji. They protected each other and were close as brothers as Lee likes to call him "Shoyng Dih".
Lee is revealed to have been in the Police department for some time and is a personal friend of Chinese Consul Solon Han and is Kung-Fu instructor to Han's daughter Soo-Yung.
Some time after the events in Las Vegas, Lee began a relationship with US Secret Service agent Isabella Molina, who was also involved on the case. However, in 2004, when Lee, Carter and Molina were in New York, Carter accidentally (but not fatally) shot Molina in the neck while aiming for a criminal. After that, she broke up with Lee, which slightly strained the friendship between Lee and Carter (more so on Lee's end), as in the beginning of the third movie, Lee is irritated with Carter and mentions the incident.
He wields a dry sense of humor but Inspector Lee doesn’t have time for shenanigans when Soo-Yung’s life is at stake.
When we first see Lee he is leading a police raid at a boating yard to recapture antiques on China's history which have been stolen and collected by the mysterious crime lord Juntao. Lee successfully recovers numerous Chinese cultural treasures stolen by Juntao, which he presents as a farewell victory to his departing superiors: Chinese consul Han and British Commander Thomas Griffin. When Soo Yung gets abducted while on her way to her first day of school, Consul Solon Han invites Lee to come over to the US to help recover his daughter. With the FBI not wanting Lee's help, he gets partnered with James Carter.
Four days after Rush Hour Lee is promoted from Detective to Chief Inspector at the police station as he and Carter take a vacation to Hong Kong. However soon after they arrive a bomb explodes in the American embassy killing two U.S custom agents in the process. Inspector Lee is assigned to the case, which becomes personal when it is discovered that it somehow involves Ricky Tan (John Lone), his late police officer father's former partner on the Hong Kong Police Force. Tan, who was suspected, but never proven, of having a role in Lee's father's death, is now a leader of the Triads. Who are according to Lee are "the most deadly gang in China".
At the beginning of the film Lee is no longer a Chief Inspector but has been demoted back to a Detective and was hired to become the bodyguard for Chinese Ambassador Solon Han who addresses the importance of fighting the Triads at the World Criminal Court, announcing that he may know the whereabouts of Shy Shen, a semi-mythical individual of great importance to the Triads. Before announcing, an assassin shoots and Han takes a bullet in the shoulder, disrupting the conference. Lee pursues the shooter and corners him, discovering that the assassin is his Japanese foster brother Kenji. When Lee hesitates to shoot Kenji, he makes his escape when Carter (having learned about the shooting over the police radio) arrives and tries to intervene. After Lee's childhood orphanage story involved with Kenji revealed shocking as a foster brother, Carter truly tries explains to Lee about had his younger little brother named Perry involved with cockfighting money gambling tournaments in his own family garage that he mentioned backgroundly. Perry's own brother (James Carter) informed the police reportedly, & putting up with it. Before Lee scolds Carter to stop talking nonsense annoyingly, Perry thinks his own brother is a tattletale, only because Carter's chicken lost in the semifinals animal fighting tournament gambling challenge, but Carter is seriously so apathy about it any longer.
- Carter always blames Lee for their mishaps telling him "It's your fault", though Lee doesn't seem to care.
- Lee thought that his father was killed in the line of duty, but it turns out he was murdered by his own partner Ricky Tan, after he discovered Tan betrayed the police to work for the Triads.
- During the bomb scene where Lee and Carter tried to get rid of the bomb, they run up the stairwell. When Carter says "Where?", Lee says "roof! roof!", with his reference being related to a barking of a dog.
- Lee's father's death was reference to how his father died in the film Shanghai Knights (his role as Chon Wang) which both the antagonists of Rush Hour 2 (Ricky Tan) and Shanghai Knights (Rathbone) wanted to say how his father died.
- Lee taking Carter's gun (as if taking a gun from a suspect) was the same move Carter had done on one of Juntao's men. In an earlier scene they had practiced doing it to each other.
- In the films, Lee's first name is Yan Naing. In the television series however, his name is Jonathan.
- In Rush Hour 3 Carter refers to himself as a Detective when demoted to a patrolman but Lee never refers to himself as a Chief Inspector when demoted to a Detective. Agent Sterling at the end of Rush Hour 2 refers to Lee as a Detective even though he had been referred to as Chief Inspector by Captain Chin earlier in the film.