Controversy as Mulan thanks Xinjiang government

Elsa Tarring explains the controversy surrounding Disney's Mulan

Elsa Tarring
17th September 2020
Mulan has recently come under fire for filming in Xinjiang, near alleged Uighur Muslim detention camps

Viewers of Disney’s latest live action film have expressed outrage at Mulan, which lists in its end credits several filming locations in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwest China and the site of alleged Uighur detainment camps. The credits also give special thanks to eight government entities in Xinjiang, such as the Public Security Bureau in Turpan, allegedly responsible for the operation of at least 14 internment camps in the region. In response to the international controversy over Mulan’s links with Xinjiang, China has now banned the media from covering matters related to the film, which was released on Disney+ earlier this month.

China has faced international scrutiny in recent years for its treatment of Uighurs, a minority ethnic group native to the Xinjiang region.

Reports claim that at least 1 million Uighurs, of which there are approximately 12 million in China, have been detained in Xinjiang re-education camps. Officially called Vocational Education and Training Centres by the Chinese government, the re-education camps reportedly imprison Uighurs, as well as members of other minority ethnic groups, who have had no charges brought against them, and therefore have been forced into the camps without trial.

Reports have suggested that the detainees are forced to work in factories with poor working conditions. Qelbinur Sidik, a Uighur teacher in one of the camps, claims she witnessed starvation and unsanitary conditions, and had heard of multiple stories of rape and torture. She was able to leave China in 2019, a freedom granted only rarely to Muslim minorities from Xinjiang.

Of the women in the camps, there have been reports of mass forced sterlisations of those between the ages of 19 and 59.

In mostly Uighur towns within Xinjiang, such as Hotan and Kashgar, the birth rate fell by more than 60% between 2015 and 2018, while the national statistic fell by only 4.2%. Thanking several government bodies in Mulan’s end credits is not the only issue viewers have raised with the film. #BoycottMulan has been circulating on social media since 2019 when Yifei Liu, who plays the eponymous role in the film, reposted an image posted by the People Daily, a newspaper produced by the Chinese Communist Party. 

The image featured a quotation from a reporter who was assaulted by protesters in Hong Kong: “I support Hong Kong police. You can beat me now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” Liu was subsequently accused of supporting police brutality in Hong Kong.

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