By Katie Williams
The long-awaited live-action Mulan reboot recently debuted on Disney+, but not everyone is thrilled about the film. Directed by Niki Caro, the film became a center for controversy, but how did it all begin? New Mulan Liu Yifei’s comments supporting Hong Kong police sparked criticism of the film, which quickly led to a call for boycotts among Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, as well as Thai and Taiwanese activists, among others. The film was also criticized for filming in Xinjiang, a region of China where Uighur Muslims have been detained in mass internment camps. They were also accused of being too white behind the camera.
Joshua Wong, Hong Kong activist, tweeted on Friday, “This film is released today. But because 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,”
What did Liu say exactly? The current state of affairs can be partly traced back to a post that Liu shared on Weibo, a Chinese website equivalent to Twitter, in 2019. “I support the Hong Kong police,” wrote Liu during the height of anti-government demonstrations over a Chinese extradition policy, adding, “You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” In a February interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Liu commented on her earlier statement, saying, “I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation, and I’m not an expert. I just really hope this gets resolved soon.”
As stated earlier, the film was shot in Xinjiang, a region of China where Uighur Muslims have been taken to mass internment camps. The Xinjiang re-education camps, officially called Vocational Education and Training Centers by the Chinese Communist Party and the Government of China, are internment camps operated by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region government CCP committee. The concentration camps are the most extreme example of China’s inhumane policies against the Uighurs, but even those outside the camps are subject to repressive policies. China has used mass surveillance to turn Xinjiang into a high-tech police state. Uighurs inside and outside the camps are exploited for cheap labor, forced to manufacture clothing and other products for sale at home and abroad. Recently, the New York Times revealed that some Chinese-made face masks being sold in the United States and other countries were produced in factories that relied on Uighur labor. Another recent investigation found evidence that Chinese authorities subjected Uighur women to mass sterilization, forcing them to take birth control or have abortions and putting them in camps if they resist. Some have argued this attempt to control the Uighur population meets the United Nations’ definition of genocide.
Today, The #BoycottMulan hashtag persists on Twitter and other social media platforms, even as the film whose release was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic finally hits Disney+. The film’s debut has led to a 68% spike in Disney+ app downloads, but it’s unclear how, or whether, the ongoing boycott is affecting Mulan’s success.