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‘Mulan’ Star Crystal Yifei Liu Skips D23 Amid International Controversy

Crystal Yifei Liu, the star of Disney’s live action remake of “Mulan,” skipped the press line and Disney panel at Disney’s D23 expo Saturday in the heat of the #BoycottMulan controversy.

Unlike the other portions of the Saturday Disney panel, which featured both stars and directors for the other films presented, the “Mulan” panel was supported by just the film’s director, Niki Caro.

The first scene queued up from Caro was Mulan’s presentation to the village matchmaker, which was previewed in the film’s first trailer.

Caro said “Mulan herself” drew her to the film, to document “her journey from village girl to male soldier to warrior to hero. She represents all of us. The story is as relevant and inspiring today as it was when written 1500 years ago.”

Liu ignited controversy after taking to the Chinese microblogging site Weibo (similar to Twitter, which is banned in China) to support the Hong Kong police’s crackdown against protesters. Last week, the Chinese-born actress and naturalized American citizen shared an image from the Communist Party’s official paper People’s Daily with the caption (translated from Chinese): “I support the Hong Kong police; you can beat me up now.” She added in English: “What a shame for Hong Kong.”

Liu’s meme comes from a viral video of a mainland Chinese undercover reporter who yelled “I support the Hong Kong police, you can beat me now” as a group of protesters in Hong Kong International Airport beat him as he curled up on the ground.

The post set off warring hashtag campaigns between #BoycottMulan, which has gained traction on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (all blocked behind China’s “Great Firewall”) and #SupportMulan, which state-backed Chinese news outlets have supported. Variety was able to identify state-sponsored Twitter bot accounts supporting the #SupportMulan campaign. Twitter shuttered more than 200,000 accounts it believed were part of a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to “sow discord.”

The Hong Kong protests began in response to mainland China’s proposed amendments to extradition legislation and an overall fear of creeping authoritarian rule. Hong Kong protesters have flooded the streets and blocked the Hong Kong international airport. More than an estimated 2 million protesters out of a population of roughly 7 million have showed up at a time.

The UN Human Rights office condemned the Hong Kong police’s response to the protest, stating the police were “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.”

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