#BoycottMulan - Why Hong Kong Activists are Protesting Disney's Latest Live-Action Remake

Pro-democracy activists call for a boycott of Disney's live-action remake of Mulan after Yifei Liu, Mulan's actress, voiced support of Hong Kong police violence.

Stephan Tilley // Walt Disney Studios

Yifei Liu's Offensive Message

Last year, controversy arose around Disney's live-action remake of Mulan when Yifei Liu (depicted above) voiced support for China's crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Liu, a Chinese-born American actress, shared a post from state-run Beijing newspaper People's Daily on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

The message stated "I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now." in Mandarin. In English, she added "What a shame for Hong Kong." The comment "You can beat me up now." is believed to be a reference to an incident in which pro-democracy protesters assaulted a Chinese state-media reporter.

Although Liu received positive responses on the highly-censored Weibo site, several people across the globe were angered by the actress's political comments. Soon, #BoycottMulan began trending on Twitter, a state that's banned in China.

Calls to #BoycottMulan reignited this week amid the film's release on September 4th through the Disney+ streaming platform. Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, reiterated his contempt for the film by tweeting "I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan." earlier this week.

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal // Twitter

The #MilkTeaAlliance

Over the recent weeks, waves of pro-democracy activists have been organizing in Thailand as well. The student-led movement has called for more democratic restructuring. Specifically, activists are requesting amendments to the constitution and the prime minister's resignation.

Activists from Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan have joined online under the #MilkTeaAlliance, which references a shared love of the drink in all three places. Beginning in April, the hashtag is often used by protestors alongside pictures of milk tea to voice support for democratic movements.

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal (depicted above), a Thai student activist, urged his followers to boycott the live-action Mulan's release, tweeting that Liu's comments hadn't been forgotten. "I invite everyone to #BoycottMulan #BanMulan to make Disney and the Chinese government know that state violence against the people is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter.

Filmmaker's Response

Jason T. Reed, a former Disney executive and one of the live-action Mulan's producers, expressed support of Liu to Yahoo News on Friday. His message has garnered criticism on social media, specifically Twitter.

“I feel badly for her, that the conversation is inevitably, it inevitably turns to this, and I hope that when audiences see the movie that the conversation turns back to what an amazing performance she brought in and how hard, how much she had to do in order to bring that character to life.” - Jason T. Reed

The story of Mulan, a strong young woman defying social norms in 7th century China for her family and country, has historically resonated with several pro-democracy activists across Asia. When Hong Kong protestor Agnes Chow was arrested in August, social media users described her as "the real Mulan" and "our Mulan."

However, Disney's live-action remake of the tale seems to be failing them. Following the initial trailer drop, one Weibo user stated "China finally has its own Disney princess," With the film's controversy, we'll have to see wait and see how it fares with audiences - and if that statement still rings true.

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