Disney's Mulan faces boycott calls after filming scenes in Xinjiang

Activists call for Mulan movie boycott after Disney included ‘special thanks’ to officials in Xinjiang – where Muslim population face widespread abuse

  • The lavish live-action remake from Disney has sparked a series of controversies
  • Liu Yifei, its leading actress, angered web users after voicing support for Hong Kong police who cracked down the city’s pro-democracy protests last year
  • The movie caused more outrage after some of its scenes were filmed in Xinjiang
  • Millions of Uighur are allegedly detained in the region’s ‘re-education camps’
  • The movie also included special thanks to the Chinese authorities in the credits

Disney’s ‘Mulan’ remake is facing fresh boycott calls after it emerged some of the blockbuster’s scenes were filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region’s Muslim population have been widely documented.

The lavish $200million (£153million) film about a legendary female Chinese warrior was already tangled in political controversy after star Liu Yifei voiced support for Hong Kong’s police as they cracked down on democracy protests last year.

But the latest furore exploded when views spotted that Disney included ‘special thanks’ to Xinjiang government in the credits after the movie began showing on the Disney+ channel last week.

A billboard for Disney’s ‘Mulan’ film is seen outside a shopping mall in Bangkok, where calls for a boycott of the movie are growing

Disney’s ‘Mulan’ remake is facing fresh boycott calls after it emerged some of the blockbuster’s scenes were filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region’s Muslim population have been widely documented. The file picture reportedly shows detainees in a Xinjiang re-education camp located in the far western Chinese region

This photo taken on May 31, 2019 shows watchtowers on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained

The authorities mentioned in the film’s credits were eight government entities in Xinjiang – including the public security bureau in Turpan, a city in eastern Xinjiang where multiple internment camps have been documented. 

Another entity thanked was the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department in Xinjiang.

The revelation has sparked renewed anger at a time of heightened scrutiny over Hollywood’s willingness to bow to authoritarian China.

Rights groups, academics and journalists have exposed a harsh crackdown against Uighur and Kazakh Muslims in Xinjiang, including mass internments, enforced sterilisations, forced labour as well as intense religious and movement restrictions.

Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow at the Asia Society, said the film was now ‘arguably Disney’s most problematic movie’ since ‘Song of the South’ – a 1946 glorification of antebellum plantation life that the company has since pulled.

‘It’s sufficiently astonishing that it bears repeating,’ he wrote in a Washington Post column.

‘Disney has thanked four propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China that is the site of one of the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today.’

Badiucao, a dissident Chinese artist living in Melbourne, said he was currently working on a new cartoon portraying Mulan as a guard at one of the internment camps in Xinjiang to satirise Disney’s new film.

‘It’s very problematic and there’s no excuse. I mean, it’s clear, we have all the evidence showing what is going on in Xinjiang,’ he told AFP.

Liu Yifei, a Chinese-American actress, plays the young woman Mulan in its live-action remake

The leading actress, Liu Yifei posted a message on Chinese Twitter-like Weibo supporting Hong Kong police. The message led to a hashtag #BoycottMulan to trend on social media 

Baduicao accused Disney of ‘double standards’, embracing western social justice movements such as MeToo and Black Lives Matter, while turning a blind eye to China’s rights abuses.

The live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animation classic, ‘Mulan’ has had a troubled release.

It was meant to hit global theatres in March but became an early victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Disney rocked the industry – and its own cast – by announcing the film would in streamed into living rooms in many markets, including the United States, which it started Friday.

Hollywood has been increasingly accused of hypocrisy over its relationship with authoritarian China.

US actor Tzi Ma plays Mulan’s heroic father in the movie. The internet has been abuzz with comment on his resemblance to China’s leader Xi Jinping

In August the anti-censorship group Pen America published a report which said screenwriters, producers and directors often change scripts, delete scenes and alter content to avoid offending Chinese censors.

The actions include everything from deleting the Taiwanese flag from Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket in the upcoming ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ to removing China as the source of a zombie virus in 2013’s ‘World War Z.’

But it also means completely avoiding sensitive issues including Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong politics, Xinjiang and the portrayal of LGBTQ characters, the report said.

AFP contacted Disney for comment but has yet to hear back on the Labor Day holiday.

Xinjiang is a resource-rich region home to mostly Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs and boasts spectacular desert and mountain backdrops.

After sectarian unrest and attacks by Uighur militants, Beijing blanketed the region in a draconian security crackdown, building dozens of huge internment camps.

Initially China denied the camps existed before switching to describing them as voluntary re-education centres.

Even before the latest Xinjiang controversy the hashtag #BoycottMulan has been trending in recent weeks Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.

Activists in all three places have launched multiple online campaigns critical of China’s authoritarianism.

Dubbed the ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ – named after a shared love of the drink – they seized on social media comments made last year by actress Liu supporting Hong Kong’s police.

They have also noted the resemblance of actor Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s heroic father, to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

After her arrest last month under Beijing’s new security law, young Hong Kong dissident Agnes Chow was dubbed ‘the real Mulan’ by supporters.

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