TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese are joining in solidarity with Hong Kong activists in calling for a boycott of the controversial Disney film "Mulan," as two of its featured actors have publicly voiced support for the brutal police crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The controversy started in August of 2019 when Chinese actress Liu Yifei (劉亦菲), who plays Mulan in the live-action remake of the 1998 animated film, expressed her support for the police despite their numerous well-documented atrocities during the 2019-20 Hong Kong protests. She reportedly posted a message on China's heavily censored, carefully orchestrated social media platform Weibo in which she wrote "I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now" in Mandarin, adding in English: "What a shame for Hong Kong."
Her post quickly sparked a backlash in Hong Kong and around the world, with those who supported the protesters launching the #BoycottMulan hashtag on social media. The film was originally scheduled to premiere in the U.S. in March of this year but was delayed twice due to the Wuhan coronavirus, which continues to ravage the country.
Liu also drew the ire of Chinese netizens after she appeared to shun her Chinese identity by referring to herself simply as "Asian" during an interview at the red carpet premiere of the film on March 9. When asked to explain the meaning of her character's line "loyal, brave, and true," Liu said she was loyal, brave, and true to her family and to herself. "[I’m] so proud to be an Asian, and just knowing that if we think of something, we’re gonna have the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves," 8 Days quoted her as saying.
Donnie Yen (甄子丹), who plays Commander Tung in the film, also drew flak for posting a comment on Facebook on July 1 praising the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to "motherland China." He also fondly recalled performing for China's Chairman Xi Jinping a day after the controversial National Security Law was imposed on Hong Kong, prompting the #BoycottMulan hashtag to trend again.
The film premiered in Taiwan on Friday (Sept. 4) with little fanfare while Taiwanese netizens continued to retweet the hashtag #BoycottMulan and #Banmulan on social media. That same day, the administrator of the Facebook group WantMoreMoviesInTaichung posted illustrations depicting Mulan in blood-stained Hong Kong riot police gear with the title "Hong Kong Murderer."
The administrator then wrote, "I think it will be a worthwhile phenomenon to explore the box office numbers in Taiwan. He then added, "We should be the last country in the world to support the Hong Kong police."
The post soon gained 15,000 likes, 7,500 shares, and 1,900 comments, including the following:
"Consumption is a choice. I choose to support democracy in Hong Kong."
"Agnes Chow is the only Mulan I recognize."
"I wouldn't watch the movie even if it was for free."
"Sorry, Disney. I definitely won't watch this one."
"I'm sorry, I really need important things like freedom, democracy, and human rights."
"We support Liu Yifei as box office poison."
Taiwanese netizens also pointed out that the film has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus and the ironic fact that Liu was born in Wuhan, the source of the global pandemic. Many Hong Kong netizens are moved by their Taiwanese counterparts' calls to boycott the film:
"Thank you, Taiwan friends. Thank you for opposing police violence."
"Hong Kong people implore you to think carefully before you decide to enter the theater..."
"Thank you Taiwanese friends for understanding."
Facebook group Light4HK that day also posted the unflattering illustrations of Mulan and expressed solidarity between the peoples of Hong Kong and Taiwan.