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Xinjiang connection, supporting police brutalities: Read why Hong Kong activists are calling for the boycott of Disney’s ‘Mulan’

Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has asked people to boycott the movie. He also accused Disney of kowtowing to China's communist government and slammed lead actress Liu Yifei for openly supporting police brutality in Hong Kong.

Walt Disney’s latest live-action remake of the 1998 animation movie ‘Mulan’ has sparked off a fresh wave of criticism over its actor’s support of police repression in Hong Kong and for being shot partly in Xinjiang, the restive province of China where millions of Uighur Muslims are facing persecution and confinement in camps.

The movie is based on Chinese folklore ‘The ballad of Mulan’. Chinese actress Liu Yifei plays the lead in the movie.

Social media platforms are awash with the criticism of the movie after netizens observed Disney expressing its gratitude towards 8 Chinese entities in Xinjiang, a region that is home to China’s Uighur Muslim population but known for horrifying brutalities by the Chinese government against the minorities.

Protesters have called for boycott of the movie, arguing that the movie is filmed extensively in the region where millions of Uighur Muslims, forcibly lodged in detention camps, are facing unspeakable atrocities, meted out by the officials of the Chinese Communist Party. They allege that supporting the movie would be akin to partaking in the cultural genocide of the Uighur people by the Xinjiang authorities.

Activists have also criticised Disney for taking help from the very authorities who are responsible for the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Hong Kong activists call for the ban over Mulan actor’s support of police brutality

The movie was already under attack by Hong Kong activists last year, with Hong Kong anti government protesters calling for a boycott of the movie after the main lead, mainland Chinese-born actress Liu Yifei, endorsed police action on social media, at a time when Hong Kong was convulsed with anti-government unrest.

Social media platforms is rife with Hong Kong activities calling for the boycott of the movie. Internet users in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand are amongst those who have promulgated hashtags such as “#BoycottMulan” and “#BanMulan” on Twitter, in the wake of the movie’s launch on Disney’s streaming platform.

The calls for the boycott of the movie ‘Mulan’ gained momentum this week, with prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong asking people to boycott the movie. He also accused Disney of kowtowing to China’s communist government and slammed lead actress Liu Yifei for openly supporting police brutality in Hong Kong.

Another Hong Kong activist, Jeffrey Ngo, now living in the United States, has also called for the boycott of Disney’s Mulan.

US politicians slam Disney for supporting Chinese repression in Xinjiang

One of the entities mentioned in the ending credits of the Disney movie is the police bureau in Turpan, the region in Xinjiang known for its rugged landscape, is also a site with a large number of detention camps housing Uighur Muslims. Recently, the Trump administration had put the bureau and other authorities in Xinjiang in the blacklist, forbidding US companies to trade with them. The blacklisting was in connection with the state-sponsored repression and cultural erosion of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Disney has also received criticism from American lawmakers for crediting Xinjiang entities, responsible for brutalising the Uighurs. “While the CCP is committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, @Disney thanked four of the propaganda departments that are lying to the world about these crimes. It also thanked the Turpan Public Security Bureau, which is on the entity list for its role in these atrocities,” wrote Representative Mike Gallagher on Twitter.

American Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, also took to Twitter to call out Disney’s support to the Chinese Communist Party, accused of operating concentration camps in Xinjiang. Tom Cotton also criticised Disney’s CEO for his remarks that speaking against China for crushing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong would be a “big mistake”.

China an important market for Hollywood movie-makers

The movie was set to release in March this year but the onset of coronavirus pandemic pushed the release date several months later. A month ago, Walt Disney said that Mulan would skip theatre issue and go directly on its online streaming service Disney+.

The film is poised to premiere in Chinese theatres this Friday and Disney is circumspect with not rankling the Chinese government this time around. Last time, in 1996, Disney was shunted out of the Chinese film market after it enraged Chinese officials for its support to “Kundun”, Martin Scorsese’s 1997 film that was sympathetic to Tibetan spiritual ruler Dalai Lama.

As a consequence, Disney’s original “Mulan” animated film from 1998 was delayed for a year to make its way in the Chinese film market. It took much persuasion and financial commitments for Disney to once again make inroads into the Chinese movie market. Disney purchased the foreign distribution rights to two Chinese feature films, hired a Chinese performance troupe to participate in the European release of “Mulan” and proposed the idea of opening a theme park in the country after which Mulan was released in China in February 1999.

China’s booming market is the world’s second-largest box-office market and has increasingly become an important destination for productions houses to rake in the moolah. Last year, Disney’s Avengers Endgame minted $629.1 mn in China, an astounding 23 per cent of its worldwide total of $2.1 bn. The 2019 remake of Lion King had racked up $120 mn at the Chinese box-office market.

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