×

Hong Kong Protesters Push Boycott of Disney’s ‘Mulan’ After Star States Support for Police Crackdown

Disney’s live-action “Mulan” film has become an unlikely battleground for the fight against Beijing’s authoritarian rule after its main star, China-born Crystal Liu Yifei, retweeted a Chinese propaganda post in support of the police crackdown on mass anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

On the Twitter-like Weibo social media platform, where Liu has nearly 66 million followers, the actress retweeted an image from the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, that reads “I support the Hong Kong police; you can beat me up now” in Chinese and “What a shame for Hong Kong” below in English. She also reiterated the campaign’s hashtag: “I also support the Hong Kong Police” with a heart and strong-arm emoji. The post has been liked 78,000 times since it went up yesterday and retweeted nearly 69,000 times. Most of the comments are just echoes of the same: “Love you, I also support them!”

The hashtag has been viewed 4.3 billion times.

Popular on Variety

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights office accused the Hong Kong police of “employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards” and thereby “creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury” through common tactics such as the firing of tear gas or rubber bullets directly at individuals or into crowded, enclosed areas.

Although Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all blocked by China’s strict censorship regime, the platforms have all been inundated with calls to “#BoycottMulan.” Liu’s own Instagram comments have now become a showdown between pro-Beijing and pro-Hong Kong factions, a mess of Chinese and Hong Kong flag emojis where once only hearts and flowers proliferated.

One incensed fan there wrote, “Liu Yifei, you are the MULAN ACTRESS how come you support POLICE BRUTALITY IN HONG KONG, ESPECIALLY TOWARDS WOMEN?”

Another directed expletives at Disney for their casting choice, before telling Liu, “I’m Chinese by heritage, but I don’t associate with your fascist beliefs. Sorry you have a warped view of reality from consuming bulls— Chinese propaganda…. New York supports you Hong Kong.”

Beijing has launched a misinformation campaign about the protests at home that seeks to portray demonstrators as violent, paid agitators. But of course, not all those who express support for China’s stance on the protests are brainwashed or bamboozled. Countless Chinese citizens and celebs are extremely proud of their rising nation, and even those with access to information about both sides of the story can end up expressing little sympathy for the protestors.

Author Karoline Kan wrote in a recent op-ed that the phenomenon is due to “the increasing self-confidence of mainland Chinese who, more than 20 years after Hong Kong was returned to China, no longer feel like they stand in its shadow.”

With just 7-odd million residents to China’s 1.4 billion, Hong Kong is a drastically smaller market than the mainland, but those pushing for the boycott hope it will catch on internationally as the protesters seek global support and sympathy for their pro-democracy movement.

The language used in Liu’s post comes from the words of an undercover mainland reporter for a Chinese nationalist tabloid — the Global Times, sometimes referred to as China’s Fox News equivalent — who has been hailed as a national hero after he was roughed up by a group of protestors at an otherwise largely peaceful mass sit-in at Hong Kong’s international airport. Seized and beaten, the reporter was filmed yelling, “I support the Hong Kong police, you can hit me now,” before later being whipped away in an ambulance.

China’s state media is using the lines as a rallying cry, focusing on the incident as support for its narrative that the protestors are an out-of-control mob. Beijing has recently sharply escalated its language about the protests, on Wednesday referring to the airport protesters as guilty of “terrorist-like actions.”

China has stationed a large number of paramilitary troops just across the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, which a recent video report from China’s state broadcaster says have the right to “participate in handling riots, severe violent crimes, terrorist attacks, and other incidents disturbing the social peace” — even in Hong Kong.

Superstar pop singer Lay Zhang Yixing, who rose to fame as the only Chinese member of the K-pop band Exo, posted the same People’s Daily image as Liu to his Instagram on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the People’s Daily continues to trumpet its message about Hong Kong multiple times a day on its official Weibo account, urging readers on Friday morning: “#Don’tBelieveThoseHongKongRumors, retweet the truth!”

More Film

  • Elvis Presley 1968 Comeback Special

    'Elvis: That's the Way It Is' Documentary Set for Re-Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    Trafalgar Releasing has set a re-release for the concert documentary “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is” for April 22 in 14 countries, Variety has learned exclusively. The event will mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s original release by MGM. Most of the remastered footage was shot at the International Hotel in Las Vegas with [...]

  • Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production

    Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production Facility in U.K.

    Blackhall Studios, the Atlanta-based production hub that has hosted several high-profile shoots in recent years, has signed an agreement with the University of Reading to develop its first U.K. facility. Due for completion in early 2022, the new studio will offer physical production stages alongside digital media facilities tailored for special effects, augmented reality and [...]

  • Alberto Martin, Alegre Cordelia, Alvaro Gago,

    'Bees,' ‘Happiness,' 'Quinquis' Selected by Madrid’s ECAM Incubator (EXCLUSIVE)

    BARCELONA – “20,000 Species of Bees,” “Something Like Happiness” and “Los quinquis” are among five feature projects that will be put through development at the ECAM Madrid Film School’s pioneering Incubator program. The Incubator forms part of The Screen, a program at the ECAM Madrid Film School, which is aimed at fostering links between on-the-rise Spain-based [...]

  • Onward Animated Film 2020

    ‘Onward’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Disney Pixar claims the top spot in spending with “Onward.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $4.99 million through Sunday for 784 national ad airings on 35 networks. [...]

  • Josef Mengele

    'Wasp Network' Producer Teams With Kirill Serebrennikov on 'Josef Mengele' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov, whose last film “Leto” competed at Cannes in 2018, is teaming with “Wasp Network” producer Charles Gillibert to adapt the best-selling French novel “The Disappearance of Josef Mengele.” Winner of the prestigious Renaudot Prize in 2017, Olivier Guez’s novel “The Disappearance of Josef Mengele” was published in more than 30 countries [...]

  • Sabrina Carpenter

    Film News Roundup: Sabrina Carpenter's 'Short History of the Long Road' Finds Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, Sabrina Carpenter’s “The Short History of the Long Road” gets a home, comedian Jo Koy’s life will become a movie, “True to the Game” is getting a sequel and APA promotes Chris Ridenhour. ACQUISITION FilmRise has acquired Sabrina Carpenter’s coming-of-age drama “The Short History of the Long Road” and is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content