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Disney’s big-budget remake of Mulan, already the subject of a pro-democracy boycott, has come under additional fire for filming scenes in China’s Xinjiang Province, where Beijing is accused of perpetrating human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims on a massive scale.
Not only did Disney shoot in the region, but the studio appears to have offered its gratitude to Chinese government agencies involved in alleged abuses.
Following Mulan‘s release on Disney+ on Friday, some viewers began noticing a “special thanks” in the film’s end credits to eight government entities in Xinjiang, including the public security bureau in the city of Turpan, where China is believed to operate over a dozen “re-education camps” that hold Uighurs in extra-judicial detention.
Mulan‘s credit sequence also extends a thank you to the “publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee,” the Chinese Communist Party agency responsible for producing and managing state propaganda efforts in the region.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Disney for comment.
For years, China has been under international scrutiny for its treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It’s estimated that over 1 million Uighur residents have been detained in extrajudicial internment camps. Uighur residents have reported being subjected to grueling political indoctrination regimens, forced labor and forced sterilization — part of an alleged government program to suppress birth rates in the Muslim population.
China says the detention camps in Xinjiang are part of a peaceful effort to improve the region’s security and economic development.
Mulan reportedly shot in approximately 20 locations in China, including the Mingsha Shan desert, which stretches into Xinjiang, and the Tuyuk Valley, to the east of Turpan. Part of Mulan‘s production team told Architectural Digest earlier this year that they spent months in Xinjiang researching locations before filming began. The film’s director, New Zealander Niki Caro, also shared a photo of dessert sand dunes in 2017, captioning it “Day 5 – China Scout” and tagging the location as “Asia/Urumqi,” the capital of Xinjiang.
Mulan stars Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei as a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to spare her elderly father from required military service.
The film, which was made for $200 million before marketing, was already the subject of controversy following social media comments made by Liu last summer supporting the Hong Kong police force’s crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement. Over the weekend, backlash to Liu’s comments has resumed, with democracy and human rights activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand banding together under a growing #BoycottMulan campaign.
Some of those activists have since taken notice of the growing Xinjiang controversy. Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate Joshua Wong tweeted: “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
So in Dec 2018 we called out McKinsey for holding a corporate retreat in Xinjiang. But what Disney did by filming Mulan in the epicenter of the Xinjiang detention camp network —and then thanking the security forces there in the credits — is on an entirely different level. https://t.co/gSHYljuTyv
— Mike Forsythe 傅才德 (@PekingMike) September 7, 2020
What's wrong with thanking Xinjiang? Well, More than a million Muslims in Xinjiang, mostly of the Uighur minority, have been imprisoned in concentration camps. Disney worked with regions where genocide is occurring, and thanked departments that are helping implement it.
— Isaac Stone Fish (@isaacstonefish) September 7, 2020
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