Disney's Mulan hobbled by strengthened boycott campaign

  • Video Report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

Disney's live-action remake of Mulan has received yet more backlash in the week since its release.

Human rights activists and some China experts have accused Disney of willfully overlooking abuses in the western region of Xinjiang. 

The final credits of the film, which can be streamed on the Disney Plus platform, thanks propaganda departments in Xinjiang, China and the public security bureau of Turpan, a Uighur-majority city in the region.

Amnesty International tweeted a link to a Guardian report on the controversy and asked Disney, “Can you show us your human rights due diligence report?”

Another widely shared tweet suggested the Mulan crew would have seen “reeducation camps” for Uighurs en route to filming locations.

Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the remote Xinjiang region have been locked up in camps for forced ideological and behavioural re-education.

Chinese authorities defend the camps as job training centres, though former detainees and experts describe them as prison-like facilities where they were humiliated, beaten and deprived of food.

Disney did not reply to a request for comment.

The newly-released Mulan is a remake of the popular 1998 animation. Both are based on the ancient Chinese tale of Hua Mulan, a young woman who takes her father’s place in the army by dressing as a man.

Online criticism of the Disney film, marked by the hashtag #BoycottMulan, erupted last year when star Liu Yifei reportedly shared a social media post in support of Hong Kong's police force.

On Chinese social media platform Weibo, Ms Liu appeared to share a post from People's Daily, a state-run Beijing newspaper. It read: "I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong."

Anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protests have been taking place for over a year in Hong Kong, despite a crackdown from authorities and a new law widely seen as an attempt to curb dissent.

#BoycottMulan resurfaced ahead of the film's widely-anticipated debut on September 4.

In a Twitter thread, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong urged human rights advocates to boycott Mulan, accusing Ms Liu of "openly and proudly" endorsing police brutality in Hong Kong.

He added that Ms Liu was "an icon of authoritarianism wilfully betraying the values Hollywood purports to champion".

Hong Kong's protests started in June 2019 after plans to allow extradition to mainland China surfaced.

Demonstrators feared this could undermine judicial independence and endanger dissidents.

Donnie Yen, a renowned Hong Kong star who plays Mulan’s regiment leader Commander Tung, has also been condemned by Hong Kong protesters for his pro-China stance.

Alan Horn, co-chairman and chief creative officer of The Walt Disney Studios, said in February that the company doesn’t want to be dragged into a political discussion.

“I can’t speak for what Yifei says in China, we didn’t know about it, what she was going to say, and that’s up to them,” he said during a roundtable session with other entertainment executives including from Netflix and Warner Brothers.

Disney has high hopes for the Mulan remake, one of its most expensive productions ever. It is postponing limited theatrical releases in some countries and putting the movie on its Disney+ streaming service for $29.99 (£23.50), on top of the monthly subscription.