Calls to boycott ‘Mulan’ are gaining steam as the new movie lands on Disney Plus


Pro-democracy activists across Hong Kong, Korea, and Thailand have renewed their calls for a boycott of Disney’s live-action “Mulan” movie. The film was released for $US30 on Disney Plus on Friday, reviving outrage over a social-media post shared by the film’s star, Liu Yifei, voicing support for Hong Kong’s police.

The prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong on Friday tweeted, “Disney kowtows to Beijing, and because Liu Yifei openly and proudly endorses police brutality in Hong Kong, I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan.”

At the time of writing, Wong’s post had 11,000 retweets and 16,000 likes. Since the start of the controversy in August last year, the #BoycottMulan movement has expanded to Korea and Thailand, where activists have staged protests and held signs reading #BanMulan, according to Fortune.

On Friday, the hashtag #BoycottMulan was trending in the US.

In August 2019, amid pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong, Yifei shared an image on the popular social-media platform Weibo that said, “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.”

The post angered many pro-democracy protesters, who said the Hong Kong police’s crackdown on those demonstrating against a new extradition law was draconian. Hong Kong’s police responded to protesters with “arbitrary arrests, brutal beatings, and torture,” according to a report from Amnesty International.

In July, Yifei addressed the controversy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation, and I’m not an expert. I just really hope this gets resolved soon … I think it’s just a very sensitive situation.”

But while the protests might affect viewership in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Korea, Disney is courting audiences in mainland China, where the film will premiere in theatres on September 11, according to Fortune.

The Mulan team cast popular Chinese actors, tested the film with Chinese audiences, and made sure to get the script approved by Chinese authorities in a bid for a slice of mainland China’s $US9 billion in box-office revenues.

The calls for a boycott are the latest in a series of challenges for the film’s release. Mulan, which had a budget of $US200 million, was originally slated to open in theatres on March 27 and has been delayed multiple times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a deal in the US to bring the film to theatres, the China market represents the largest theatre-going audience for the film.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the controversy.

On Friday, the movie became available for purchase for Disney Plus’ 60 million subscribers, who can pay $US30 (on top of their $US7 monthly subscription) to view the film. The film will be available for free to Disney Plus subscribers on starting December 4.


Disney criticised for filming Mulan in China’s Xinjiang province

Disney is under fire for shooting its new film Mulan in parts of China where the government is accused of serious human rights abuses.

The final credits thank a government security agency in Xinjiang province, where about 1m people – mostly Muslim Uighurs – are thought to be detained.

The film was already the target of a boycott after its lead actress backed a crackdown on Hong Kong protesters.

Disney has not commented on the row over the locations and the credits.

China says its detention camps in Xinjiang are necessary to improve security.

The live-action film, which is one of the biggest releases of the year, is a remake of the 1998 animated story of a young girl who takes her father’s place in the army.

But fans in some Asian countries called for a boycott after Chinese-born actress Liu Yifei made comments supporting Hong Kong’s police who have been accused of violence against pro-democracy protesters in recent months.

Then, on Monday, social media users noticed that in the credits Disney thanked a number of government entities in Xinjiang, including the public security bureau in the city of Turpan and the “publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee”.

The public security bureau in Turpan is tasked with running China’s “re-education” camps where Uighurs are held in detention, China expert Adrian Zenz told the BBC.

The “publicity department” named by Disney is responsible for producing state propaganda in the region, he adds.

It is believed that one million Uighur people have been forcibly detained in the high-security prison camps in recent years.

Leaked documents and testimonies from camp survivors reveal that inmates are locked up, indoctrinated and punished, claims which China has dismissed as “fake news”.

In 2018 a BBC investigation found evidence of security compounds built in the desert in Xinjiang.

Mr Zenz described Disney as “an international corporation profiteering in the shadow of concentration camps”.

The World Uygar Congress tweeted “in the new Mulan, Disney thanks the public security bureau in Turpan, which has been involved in the internment camps in East Turkistan.”

Activist Shawn Zhang also criticised the company, writing “how many thousands of Uighur were put into camps by Turpan Bureau of Public Security when filming Mulan there?”

Turpan was the site of the first “re-education camps” where Uighur women wearing veils or men wearing beards were detained, Mr Zenz explained. The public security bureau is also responsible for managing construction of the camps and hiring police to staff them, he added.

The earliest evidence of “re-education” work of Uighurs in Turpan is from August 2013, Mr Zenz claims.

In June, he issued a report which uncovered evidence that China was forcing Uighur women to be sterilised or fitted with contraceptive devices, a practice that China denies.

China says it is fighting the “three evil forces” of separatism, terrorism, and extremism in Xinjiang and says the camps are voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.

In 2017 Mulan director Niki Caro posted photos on Instagram from the capital of Xinjiang. The production team behind the film also told the Architectural Digest magazine that they spent months in Xinjiang to research filming locations.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has also condemned Disney, tweeting that viewers watching Mulan are “potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uighurs”.



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