After months of delays, Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan has finally been released, but the movie is facing a growing backlash.
Controversy over the movie first erupted last year when Liu Yifei, who plays Mulan, voiced support for Hong Kong police, who have been accused of violently suppressing pro-democracy protesters.
In August 2019, Liu shared an image posted by Chinese newspaper People’s Daily. Sharing the image on Weibo, a social media app, Liu wrote: “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong.”
When The Hollywood Reporter asked Yifei about her comments in February, she responded: “I think it’s obviously a very complicated situation and I’m not an expert. I just really hope this gets resolved soon.”
As the comments came to light, Twitter soon erupted with calls to ‘Boycott Mulan’ urging “everyone who believes in human rights” to give Disney’s latest adaption a miss. The hashtag #boycottmulan began trending worldwide.
Some Twitter users found it “ironic” that as a character Mulan “represents empowerment and selflessness” and yet “the actress who plays the role is in support [of] police brutality and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong”.
More controversy erupted when viewers spotted that the final credits of the film thanks propaganda departments in Xinjiang, China, where over a million Uyghur Muslims have been held in re-education camps.
Speaking at a Bank of America virtual conference, Disney’s head of finance, Christine McCarthy, responded to the controversy:
“The real facts are that Mulan was primarily shot — almost in entirety — in New Zealand.
“In an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this period drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China. It’s common knowledge that, in order to film in China, you have to be granted permission. That permission comes from the central government.
“So, in our credits, it recognized both China and locations in New Zealand. I would just leave it at that, but it has generated a lot of issues for us.”
Mulan opened in theatres in China on Friday, September 11.