Everything you need to know about the #BoycottMulan controversy

What began as a simple opposition to a controversial bill proposed by Lam’s government has evolved to a series of increasingly violent protests across Hong Kong. You probably already know this. But in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past three months, here’s a brief summary of the events and an explanation as to how political manifestations have sparked an anti-Disney boycott.

Hong Kong’s government led by Carrie Lam proposed in early February a bill that would allow for criminals and fugitives to be transferred and have their trials at a number of jurisdictions including mainland China, whose infamous legal system is not what one would necessarily call transparent.

This was largely criticised as a pro-Beijing move and a threat to Hong Kong’s independence. As a result, protests sparked in early June and citizens of Hong Kong have since released a list of demands which include the complete withdrawal of the extraction bill, amnesty for all those arrested during protests, an independent inquiry into police brutality and last but not least, the resignation of Mrs Lam who has been accused of acting as a puppet of Beijing’s political interests.

Following the government’s warning that it won’t tolerate any challenge to its rule despite political turmoil, millions of people have participated in protests across various densely populated areas in Hong Kong, including its international airport. These demonstrations have now become a pro-democracy movement calling for broader democratic reforms.

As the government failed to respond, anger from protestants has turned to the police, who in turn have been using increasingly violent methods as an attempt to control the crowds. 500 arrests, 1,800 canisters of tear gas, 300 rubber bullets and 170 sponge grenades later, the United Nations human rights office and Amnesty International have spoken and condemned police’s use of less-lethal weapons as they are clearly prohibited by international norms and standards.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Deciding not to remain silent, Chinese actress Liu Yifei (to star the titular heroine in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan) has taken a public stance on the issue and voiced her support for the Hong Kong police forces.

In a Twitter-like social media platform called Weibo, Liu retweeted a state-backed post that read: “I support the Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.” The quote was originally said by a reporter from the state newspaper The People’s Daily, regarded as China’s version of Fox News. The actress added the phrases “What a shame for Hong Kong” and “I also support the Hong Kong police” followed be a heart and a ‘flexed biceps’ emoji.

Liu has over 65 million followers on Weibo and her post was liked by nearly 81,000 people. While the actress received widespread support on the heavily censored platform, the hashtag #BoycottMulan began trending worldwide on Twitter. Fans of Mulan have pointed out that the Chinese actress, a naturalised US citizen, is in favour of denying Hong Kong citizens the basic human rights she has been granted in her adopted country.

Fans are outraged and many have pointed out the irony of having an actress who openly supports violent police forces set to play a character who is supposed to fight oppression against the defenceless.

Liu Yifei was cast as Mulan back in 2017 after Disney reportedly auditioned nearly one thousand candidates for the role in search for the perfect fit. In the live-action remake of the beloved 1998 animated film, she will play the heroine Hua Mulan, a Chinese warrior who disguises herself as a man in order to take her father’s place in the army and defend her homeland.

The film’s first trailer was released just over a month ago on July 7th and has since also received some backlash from die-hard Disney fans who were disappointed in the lack of signature music from the original film and most notably the absence of Mushu, everyone’s beloved dragon sidekick.

While Liu’s character in the trailer states “I will bring honour to us all”, should we now be questioning if this is really the case? While a simple hashtag on Twitter will probably not affect the production process of the film, it could negatively influence its box office figures when the film is released in Spring of next year.

Controversies revolving around major Hollywood films will most likely never cease to surface. However, it’s quite clear that the public is becoming more and more aware of the increasingly unforgiving chain of events that connect an actor’s real-life actions and a film’s box office success (or failure).

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