Walt Disney Co's release of “Mulan,” which is set in China and meant to appeal to audiences there, has provoked a backlash on social media over its star's support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region.
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Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong and internet users in Taiwan and Thailand are among those who promoted hashtags “#BoycottMulan" and "#BanMulan” on Twitter, following this month's launch of the film on Disney's streaming platform.
It will also be shown in cinemas in China - an increasingly important market for Hollywood studios - from September 11.
Disney's shares rose 1.7 percent to $134.20 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday as investors shrugged off the backlash on hopes that subscribers to the company's streaming video service in the United States and other markets paid $30 over the weekend to watch the film as part of a test release amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a note on Tuesday, Deutsche Bank analysts upgraded shares of Disney from a hold to a buy and raised their price target from $128 to $163.
Criticism of the live-action remake of a 1998 animated version began last year when Mulan's star, mainland Chinese-born actress Liu Yifei, expressed support on social media for police in Hong Kong, which was roiled at the time by anti-government unrest.
Liu did not immediately respond to a request for comment via her account on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site.
Calls for people to boycott the film gathered pace this week over its links to the western region of Xinjiang, where China's clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticized by some governments, including the United States, and human rights groups.
Mulan specifically thank the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang uyghur autonomous region committee in the credits.— Jeannette Ng 吳志麗 (@jeannette_ng) September 7, 2020
You know, the place where the cultural genocide is happening.
They filmed extensively in Xinjiang, which the subtitles call “Northwest China”#BoycottMulan pic.twitter.com/mba3oMYDvV
Several state organizations in Xinjiang appeared in the film's credits, according to social media posts.
“In the new #Mulan, @Disney thanks the public security bureau in Turpan, which has been involved in the internment camps in East Turkistan,” the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress tweeted on Monday.
Asked about the reaction to the film's Xinjiang shooting, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian restated Beijing's denial of the existence of re-education camps in the region, calling facilities there vocational and educational institutions and accusing anti-China forces of smearing its Xinjiang policy.
It just keeps getting worse! Now, when you watch #Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to police brutality and racial injustice (due to what the lead actors stand for), you're also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs. #BoycottMulan https://t.co/dAMgZ6PWTD— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) September 7, 2020
Wong, the Hong Kong activist, accused Disney of “kowtowing” to China, citing Liu and another actor's support for police in the territory and the movie's credits mentioning state organizations in Xinjiang.
“We urge people around the world to boycott the new Mulan movie,” he told Reuters on Tuesday.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.