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China is using Disney’s ‘Mulan’ to smear Hong Kong protesters

In a new twist, China has launched a #SupportMulan initiative to counter the calls for a boycott.

China is using Disney’s ‘Mulan’ to smear Hong Kong protesters
[Photo: courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures]

What: The latest development in Disney’s live-action Mulan remake becoming steeped in controversy.

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Who: The Chinese government and state media.

Why we care: It’s beginning to look like the story of Mulan as a political prop may be even more dramatic than the film itself. Last week, protesters started a movement to #BoycottMulan after the upcoming live-action remake’s star voiced support for the Hong Kong police using force on people protesting both government policy and police abuse. Chinese actress Yifei Liu (who is a naturalized American citizen) used the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo to share with her 65 million followers an image from the state-backed People’s Daily, which read, “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now.” She also added, “What a shame for Hong Kong” and the hashtag #IAlsoSupportTheHongKongPolice, along with a heart emoji. In essence, Liu was equating the protesters with being as abusive as the Hong Kong police, whom several international organizations have accused of brutality and excessive force. It didn’t take long for the hashtag #BoycottMulan to trend on Twitter and Instagram, with many users tagging Disney along the way.

Imagine being a Disney executive, perhaps in the marketing department, and having to decide what to do or say about the boycott. Do they dare send a vague message hinting at being against the use of excessive force on protesters? The company, which relies on China for a significant portion of its global profits, has so far chosen to remain silent. That may not be possible for much longer, though.

The Chinese government has apparently adopted the upcoming film as a symbol, using both government-backed media and armies of bots to spread the message #SupportMulan. According to Variety, Twitter has shuttered more than 200,000 accounts from China that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement.” Facebook has also taken steps to combat the apparent misinformation campaign to discredit the demonstrators. Meanwhile, Chinese news outlets have seemingly taken their marching orders to push the #SupportMulan campaign.

The longer this situation continues, the more tenuous Disney’s position as a neutral player remains.

Read a more detailed analysis of Disney’s overall dilemma here, and watch the trailer for Mulan below.

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