People are calling dishonor on Disney’s live-action Mulan after the star of the upcoming remake, Crystal Liu, posted on social media in support of the Hong Kong police force.
Liu’s admission of support of Hong Kong law enforcement, which has been under scrutiny for what human rights groups have deemed an excessive use of force against pro-democracy protesters, sparked outrage in China and caused a ripple effect around the world.
Taking to Weibo, the Chinese social media site on which Liu has over 65 million followers, the actress shared an image that reads,
“I support Hong Kong’s police, you can all attack me now…What a shame for Hong Kong.”
She hashtagged the image, originally shared by the Chinese newspaper group People’s Daily, #IAlsoSupportTheHongKongPolice, then added a heart emoji.
Less than 24 hours after Liu posted the photo, it amassed over 72,000 likes and was shared over 65,000 times.
Backlash has been just as swift, though. The hashtag #BoycottMulan has taken over Twitter and Instagram in the time since Liu’s post, with the tag feed filling up with dozens of posts per hour.
One user on Twitter wrote,
“Support Liu’s Mulan = Support Police’s Abuse of Power. The spirit of Mulan is about bravery, not fighting the citizens with unlimited force.”
Another user went viral with his #BoycottMulan tweet that reads,
“Disney’s Mulan actress, Liu Yifei, supports police brutality and oppression in Hong Kong. Liu is a naturalized American citizen. it must be nice. meanwhile she pisses on people fighting for democracy. retweet please. HK doesn’t get enough support. #BoycottMulan @Disney.”
“I thought people were just overreacting at first but yikes. She really just f—ed over that movie and all involved. The movie’s budget was already rumored to be pretty large too. A simple recast won’t fix this issue. They’d have to likely reshoot the entire film. #BoycottMulan.”
Over on Instagram, user @rileyscreed shared a post that read in part,
“…if you support what the police are doing in Hong Kong, you are unbelievably ignorant. They violate human rights for fun. She comes from such a place of entitlement it’s not surprising that her closed mind would spew out this trash.”
So what’s this all about?
In recent months, the Hong Kong police force has been the center of an intense debate about police brutality, democracy, and the autonomy of Hong Kong. In June, hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong gathered to protest a bill that would grant criminally charged residents the possibility to be extradited from the Hong Kong city-state to mainland China. Protesters fought against the bill, arguing that it would destroy Hong Kong’s autonomy that it established under the “one country, two systems” standard in 1997.
Local police have since implemented increasingly aggressive tactics to dissuade protesters and clear the streets, going so far as to use tear gas in enclosed spaces and shoot rubber bullets into crowds, seriously injuring and even blinding protesters. As things have escalated, activists’ focus has evolved from the proposed bill in particular to general outrage over police brutality and a fight for democracy in Hong Kong.
On top of that, Variety reported that Facebook and Twitter have been forced to crackdown on what is believed to be an attempt by the Chinese government to intentionally spread misinformation about the protests on social media – using Mulan. And while social media bots spread pro-government Mulan memes, the official state-backed media have begun hyping the film as well.
Complicating things even further, there’s the fact that Chinese stars are sometimes forced to publicly support government policies regardless of their personal feelings. In 2018, the nation’s biggest movie star, Fan Bingbing, completely vanished without a trace for six months. It was later learned that she had been placed under house arrest for failure to pay taxes on her movie earnings. Upon her release, Bingbing issued a repentant propaganda statement praising the Chinese government, which raises the question of whether Mulan star Liu posted the pro-government comments of her own free will to begin with.
All of which puts Disney in a very tricky spot which would seem to make it difficult for the company to recast the role, especially since the movie has already been filmed. There is some precedent, though. In 2017, just weeks before the release of the crime thriller All the Money in the World, star Kevin Spacey was accused of numerous instances of sexual assault. Director Ridley Scott decided to remove Spacey from the film entirely, and reshot all of his scenes with Christopher Plummer in the role instead.