Disney’s live-action remakes of their animated classics have hardly been renowned for courting controversy, but Mulan has been drawing criticism and backlash at every turn. Fans called out the movie for omitting beloved sidekick Mushu, protestors slammed star Yiu Lifei for defending the Hong Kong police, theater owners were furious that they lost one of their biggest earners of the year to the Mouse House’s streaming service, human rights activists called for a boycott after the credits thanked the Xinjiang province, and now the U.S. Senate has gotten in on the act.
The Xinjiang region has been making headlines all over the world recently following allegations that atrocities are being committed against the Turkish-speaking Uighur people, which isn’t good news for the family-friendly Disney after they offered their gratitude to the Chinese government in Mulan‘s credits. The studio clearly bent over backwards to appease the country, and all of it looks to have been for nothing after Niki Caro’s $200 million blockbuster bombed at the local box office, which was the only key market it stood any chance of doing decent business in on the big screen.
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Disney’s CFO has admitted that the backlash has caused some serious issues for the company, and now Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has written a strongly-worded letter to recently appointed CEO Bob Chapek condemning the multimedia conglomerate for endorsing cultural genocide, and you can check it out in full below.
“Dear Mr. Chapek:
The Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide in Xinjiang, and not just cultural genocide either. There was a time when Beijing might have been satisfied with enslaving Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, even as it tortured them into abandoning their beliefs and swearing loyalty to the Party. But that is no longer the case. Now Beijing appears intent on destroying the Uighur people. And it has rolled out a sophisticated campaign to do just that, including by systematically sterilizing Uighur women and aborting their children.
On August 13, 2018, Walt Disney Studios announced that production had begun on Mulan. By that time, numerous reports had been released by the U.S. government and non-government organizations concerning the mass internment of Uighurs and others in camps in Xinjiang. But that did not stop Disney from going to Xinjiang to film Mulan. Nor did it stop Disney from collaborating with the Chinese officials directly responsible for the atrocities at those camps.
The Mulan closing credits tell the story. Nine minutes into the ten-minute credit roll, Disney gives ‘special thanks’ to the Turpan Public Security Bureau, the very same bureau responsible for administering the concentration camps in the Turpan jurisdiction. Disney also chose to give ‘special thanks’ to several CCP propaganda organs, including the Xinjiang Communist Party’s publicity department. These agencies are tasked with spreading disinformation about the atrocities in Xinjiang in order to shield Beijing from accountability.
Disney’s whitewashing of the ongoing Uighur genocide is contrary to all of your company’s supposed principles. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, you wrote about the need to ‘confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable, and less worthy of dignity, care and protection than the lives of others’. Elsewhere, Disney has declared its commitment ‘to providing comfort, inspiration, and opportunity to children and families around the world’ and described its ‘commitment to respect human rights’ as a ‘core value’.
How exactly does giving ‘special thanks’ to the officials responsible for imprisoning, torturing, and forcibly sterilizing millions of people because of their ethnicities and beliefs align with your supposed commitment to promoting human dignity and respecting human rights? How does glorifying the Chinese authorities perpetrating abuses in Xinjiang provide comfort, inspiration, and opportunity to Uighur children, including those who were never born because the CCP forced their mothers to abort them? Disney’s actions here cross the line from complacency into complicity.
For nearly a century, Disney has told stories, produced films, and built theme parks that inspired us, brought us together, and showed us the very best of what American had to offer the world. Your decision to uncritically approve this film’s release rather than apologizing to those harmed by Disney’s actions is reprehensible. Your decision to put profit over principle, to not just ignore the CCP’s genocide and other atrocities but to aid and abet them, is an affront to American values.
As you contemplate your next steps, I request your answers to the following questions:
Does Disney agree that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for imprisoning and torturing Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang?
Why did Disney choose to film portions of Mulan in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party was imprisoning and torturing Uighurs and others in Xinjiang at the same time?
What assistance did Disney receive from the Turpan Public Security Bureau and other Chinese government agencies involved in the atrocities in Xinjiang?
How did Disney compensate the Turpan Public Security Bureau and other Chinese agencies for any assistance rendered? Is Disney still providing compensation to the Chinese entities listed in the Mulan closing credits, and does it plan to provide compensation to these entities in the future?
Has Disney coordinated, collaborated, or otherwise engaged with any of the Chinese actors that have been designated for sanctions by the Treasury Department on account of their contributions to the atrocities in Xinjiang?
Does Disney condemn the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang?
Will Disney sever its relationships with the Chinese Communist Party in response to the Party’s abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and elsewhere?
Will Disney pull Mulan from Disney+ in order to avoid any further glorification of Xinjiang or validation of the Chinese Communist Party officials and agencies responsible for the atrocities in that province?
Will Disney donate any of the profits drawn from Mulan to non-governmental organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking and the other atrocities underway in Xinjiang?
Please deliver your responses to these questions to my office by September 30, 2020. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
People already seem to be review bombing Mulan in the wake of the controversy, with the movie’s audience score down to a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 2.8 on Metacritic, and it’ll be interesting to see if Disney now chooses to respond to being publicly called out by a government official.