#BoycottMulan: Why Disney’s ‘Mulan’ has Caused Controversy

#boycottmulan mulan boycott disney

Calls to boycott Mulan are trending on Twitter as Disney’s latest adaptation premiered last Friday.

Following previous criticism surrounding the premium release of Mulan to Disney+—which saw viewers having to pay an extra £20 on top of the £60 a year subscription fee—the film has been subject to backlash via the hashtag #BoycottMulan because of certain links with China. 

Such a response was not a surprise to many. Problems began last year when starring actress Liu Yifei voiced her support for the Hong Kong police force, who were accused of using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters. Using the Chinese social media site Weibo, Yifei reportedly said: “I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.” 

She shared this message last summer, and it didn’t take long for #BoycottMulan to start trending at the time. But the situation for citizens of Hong Kong has only gotten worse, as the Chinese government has begun to implement laws that are restricting Hong Kong’s right to a democracy and independent legal system. For example, as of June 2020 Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed a law that makes it illegal, to insult or ‘misuse’ the Chinese national anthem. Doing so is punishable by a fine of up to HK$50,000 (approx. £4950) or up to three years imprisonment. Therefore the outrage towards the Mulan star’s stance has only grown. 

Read more: China’s New National Security Law For Hong Kong

In a tweet that received over 9000 likes and thousands of retweets, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong supported calls for a boycott: “because Disney kowtows to Beijing, and because Liu Yifei openly and proudly endorses police brutality in HK, I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan.”

And the controversy doesn’t end there. Upon release, it has been pointed out that in the credits of Mulan, the studio offer their thanks to multiple government entities in Xinjiang, an area characterised by the high population of Uighur Muslims. It is here that extreme human rights abuses have been reported against the Uighur Community. The news that Disney conducted extensive filming in this area—where up to 1 million Muslim Uighur are believed to be detained in ‘re-education camps’—has caused an uproar online, which is not helped by the fact that Disney is yet to comment regarding their stance on the human rights abuses, or explain their reasons for filming in the area. 

Disney has proved in the past that they are not averse to using their might to stand against various political issues. For example, Bob Iger, who was CEO of Disney at the time, stated in May 2019 that it “would be rather difficult” to continue filming in Georgia—where they had filmed various blockbusters such as Avengers: Endgame and Black Panther —if a pro-life abortion law took affect. As China is now the second largest film market in the world, many share Wong’s view that Disney ‘kowtows’ to Beijing by censoring and tweaking characters or plot lines, in order to ensure their films make a large profit in the country.

With many activists calling not only for a boycott, but a complete removal of Mulan from Disney’s streaming service, it seems probable that Disney will have to make a statement sooner rather than later, especially considering the recent news that Chinese authorities have reportedly banned their media outlets from covering the release of Mulan, which would thoroughly damage the films prospects in the country. 

Words by Matilda Head

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