Yifei Liu attends the Premiere Of Disney's Mulan on March 9 2020 in Hollywood, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FILMMAGIC/GREGG DEGUIRE
Yifei Liu attends the Premiere Of Disney's Mulan on March 9 2020 in Hollywood, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FILMMAGIC/GREGG DEGUIRE

Shanghai — Walt Disney’s release of Mulan, which is set in China and meant to appeal to audiences there, has provoked a backlash on social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region.

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong and internet users in Taiwan and Thailand are among those who promoted hashtags #BoycottMulan and #BanMulan on Twitter, following this month’s launch of the film on Disney’s streaming platform.

It will also be shown in cinemas in China — an increasingly important market for Hollywood studios — from September 11.

Criticism of the live-action remake of a 1998 animated version began last year when Mulan’s star, mainland Chinese-born actress Liu Yifei, expressed support on social media for police in Hong Kong, which was roiled at the time by anti-government unrest.

Liu did not immediately respond to a request for comment via her account on Weibo, a popular Chinese micro-blogging site.

Calls for people to boycott the film gathered pace this week over its links to the western region of Xinjiang, where China’s clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments, including the US, and human rights groups.

Several state organisations in Xinjiang appeared in the film’s credits, according to social media posts.

“In the new #Mulan, @Disney thanks the public security bureau in Turpan, which has been involved in the internment camps in East Turkistan,” the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress tweeted on Monday.

Asked about the reaction to the film’s Xinjiang shooting, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian restated Beijing’s denial of the existence of re-education camps in the region, calling facilities there vocational and educational institutions and accusing anti-China forces of smearing its Xinjiang policy.

Activist Wong accused Disney of “kowtowing” to China, citing Liu and another actor’s support for Hong Kong police and the movie’s credits mentioning state organisations in Xinjiang.

“We urge people around the world to boycott the new Mulan movie,” he said on Tuesday. Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The movie, reported to have cost $200m to produce, had been scheduled to reach theatres in March, but its release was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, Disney said Mulan would skip most theatres and go directly to its Disney+ platform. However, it is set to premiere in Chinese cinemas from Friday, and the studio hopes it will do better than the animated version more than 20 years ago.

That release was delayed after Disney’s relations with China soured over Kundun, its 1997 movie based on the life of the exiled Dalai Lama, whom China has branded a dangerous separatist.

In February, director Niki Caro told The Hollywood Reporter that Disney had tested the film with Chinese audiences, removing a kissing scene between Mulan and her love interest after feedback from its Chinese executives.


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