Why is ‘Boycott Mulan’ trending? It involves Hong Kong & ‘Mulan’ star Crystal Liu

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Isn't It Romantic"

In 1997, the British rule of Hong Kong ended and Hong Kong was “given back” to the People’s Republic of China. No one knew what to expect with the Hong Kong’s thriving capitalist economy and their halfway independent state when that happened. For a while, China basically allowed Hong Kong to exist somewhat independently, although obviously Hong Kong has not been allowed to have any kind of substantive political independence. For more than a decade, there has been growing dissent in Hong Kong about Chinese interference in Hong Kong’s laws, local politics and somewhat independent justice system. For the past ten weeks, there have been massive protests in Hong Kong all because mainland China introduced the Hong Kong extradition bill, which would have meant that if you commit a crime in Hong Kong, you’re sent to mainland China for trial/prison.

So, the protests have been happening all summer. There have been hundreds of clashes between protesters and police, and many of those clashes are violent. Why is this an entertainment/gossip story? Well… you know how Hollywood has been really going after the audience in China, and they want all of that Chinese financing? Yeah, so Disney decided to do the live-action remake of Mulan and it was supposed to be yet another giant move to bring a Hollywood film to Chinese audiences. And… the star of the film, Crystal Liu, just used her social media to send some support to the (Chinese-serving) police. It’s a move which will put her in the good graces of mainland China, for sure. But it’s a massive headache for everybody else.

Disney’s live-action Mulan remake has a become a surprise flashpoint in Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy, anti-police brutality protests, after the film’s star, Chinese-American actress Crystal Liu, took to social media to voice her support for the Hong Kong police force. Liu’s statement sparked instant outcry in Hong Kong, where the local police have been accused by international human rights groups of excessive use of force in confrontations with protesters and the public.

Posting to her 65 million followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo, Liu shared an image originally released by the state-backed People’s Daily, reading: “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now,” followed by, “What a shame for Hong Kong.” Liu added the hashtag “IAlsoSupportTheHongKongPolice” and a heart emoji. The post received over 72,000 likes and over 65,000 shares in less than 24 hours.

Outside of China, however, the hashtag #BoycottMulan has begun to trend on Twitter and Instagram. One of the most viral tweets, with 3,500 retweets and almost 4,000 likes, came from Twitter user @sdnorton who wrote: “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.”

Comments on Liu’s Instagram have similarly condemned her “support for police brutality” as well as the “[suppression] of democracy and freedom” which “violates the character of Mulan,” and likewise called for a boycott of the film. There have also been comments attacking Liu for her views on the official Mulan Instagram and Facebook accounts.

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

I remember being a kid and watching the footage from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and how, even back then, I thought those protesters were so f–king brave. What is wrong with the garbage youths today, my lord. They see Hong Kong protesters literally putting their lives on the line for democracy, for independence, for justice reform and their reaction is “nope, the oppressors are right!” Anyway, THR notes in this article that while Crystal Liu’s social media post is a massive headache, the “Boycott Mulan” movement probably won’t go very far. And hell, this probably makes Disney look better in China.

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Isn't It Romantic"

Photos courtesy of Disney/Mulan.

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61 Responses to “Why is ‘Boycott Mulan’ trending? It involves Hong Kong & ‘Mulan’ star Crystal Liu”

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  1. Ib says:

    Mongolian expat here just to say that Mulan was actually Hunnu (so Hun) and Disney screenwriting reversed it because of the Chinese market. Mulan is a documented figure in Mongolian texts

    • SKF says:

      Interesting!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I had no idea! I’m going to have to go down the Google search hole today.

    • buenavissta says:

      Now I’m curious. I wonder if the Mongolian Huns are any relation to the Huns of the steppes ( ie Attila etc). Anyone? I will be following you down the rabbit hole, Elizabeth. And thanks for the info, Ib.

    • Angie says:

      Really? Thanks for sharing! That’s very interesting. I’m been watching these protests with a heavy heart hoping the protestors don’t disappear like the Tiananmen Square ones did (the leaders, anyone caught in video, etc.)

    • Christina says:

      Thank you, Ib, so much for sharing. Sad that they didn’t use the Mongolian culture she came from in the cartoon. Done with care, it could have been educational as well as inspirational.

  2. Digital Unicorn says:

    I dunno, it depends on what happens over the next few weeks. The Chinese ambassador to the UK basically said a few days ago that the Chinese gov are prepared ‘for the worst’ and warned off the UK gov telling it not to interfere in its former colony. Am just about old enough to remember the handover and from what I can recall NO ONE in HK wanted to be part of China – the people pretty much wanted to stay part of the UK. And we are now seeing why, the Chinese are going back on the promises they made to keep HK semi-autonomous (2 systems 1 state kind of thing). They’ve been pretty much dismantling HK democracy for the past 10 or so years.

    • Adrien says:

      That was in 1997, the UK still had money and powerful military presence with no Brexit dilemma. I watched that and the presenter got his ass served by the China ambassador.

    • SKF says:

      A lot of my friends in high school grew up in Hong Kong and moved to Australia because if change-over. Their families had the means (and at least one parent with citizenship) to be able to do so.

    • Arpeggi says:

      The Chinese government already kidnaps people in HK if they dare to voice opposition to the central party, they’ll sometime reappear in mainland apologizing for what they’ve said before, sometime they don’t… I can imagine how worst it would be if that new law was put in effect. Lots of people in HK have dual citizenship and a Brit passport, no? I get why they would have wanted to have that before HK was given back to China, I too wouldn’t have trusted the central government at all.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Not sure of the details but I think if they were born in HK before the change over they could claim duel citizenship/a UK passport.

      • PandyBeary says:

        @Digital Unicorn,

        Not necessarily true. The UK did pass the 1948 British Nationality Act which conferred UK citizenship on all colonial and British subjects, but in the 1960s they started restricting it until only those who had a parent who was of British descent (read: white) who got it. (I just finished writing my dissertation on this incidentally.)

        The UK govt did give a select few HKers citizenship ahead of 1997, but the people who got it had a) either the money to buy it or b) worked in government jobs. So they really did not provide for the rest of HK.

  3. Alexandria says:

    She could have said nothing and still remain on the safe side of China and Hollywood. Does she act in China?

    • MellyMel says:

      Yeah. Even though she’s American, she mostly works in China. She also still has family there as well.

    • 2bounce4u says:

      I’ve seen enough of examples of Chinese celebrities go against China’s policies and I’m pretty sure she had no choice if she’d ever want to work in China again. However, it does not condemn their morality.

      Tbh I don’t understand how Chinese people still deal with this oppression? My country – and it was x100 smaller, for a long time was a part of USSR and our people still got our independence though it cost blood.

  4. DS9 says:

    I’m not going to boycott.

    I support the people of Hong Kong against the Chinese government but I also support the increasing diversity and representation this movie brings.

    • Taryn says:

      I want(ed) to see it for that exact reason and the fact that the film also features an all Asian cast, boycotting wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the cast who didn’t say these things. However, I respect the millions in HK who are being terrorized by police and having their freedom and democracy taken from them by China, and it is absolute abhorrent to support a Chinese actress who supports and defends police brutality just because she is Chinese. So on that note, I doubt i’ll support the film.

  5. Chaine says:

    Sickening. I wish I could say I would boycott, but I was not planning to see this movie anyway as it’s just going to be more Disney pablum.

  6. escondista says:

    I have heard many celebrities in China are being told to support China in HK in order to save their careers and help their families.

    I’ll boycott just because i think Disney is an evil empire.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      Yes, this does sound like she’s parroting a coordinated message to propagandize against pro-democracy protesters. I am sure she or her family in China are being paid for it. I was living on the mainland in 1997-98, and can attest to the fact that Hong Kong was seen as a ripe plum to be smashed and eaten up. I’m very worried about the citizens there, and also see this aggression from the PLA as setting the stage to attack Taiwan.

      • SKF says:

        That’s a terrifying thought.

      • I doubt anyone is paying her or her family to parrot this nonsense. More like, “we won’t put your/your family in work camps if you say this”
        China is terrifying 😱

      • The Other Katherine says:

        Yes, I keep worrying that I will wake up and hear there’s been a bloodbath overnight. I am also very concerned that this will be a stepping stone to military assertion of control over Taiwan, which would be a disaster in so many ways. I’m sure Chinese leadership is looking at the orange gibbon in the White House and contemplating just how far they can go, which is much further than ever before. Japan and South Korea must be feeling very damned nervous.

  7. JoyBells says:

    Even if they were pressured to post something – the picture of Chinese flag saying One China was one thing but to support the HK police saying you can beat me is a step too far. I wonder if she would hold the same sentiment if she was on the receiving side of the police brutality. Protestors losing their eye, stripped and beaten, broken arms and legs. And the worst part is this lady has a American citizenship, so unlike others this is probably her personal opinion and/or a career-related financial decision.

    I am on a personal boycott and won’t be watching the movie in the cinema when it releases.

  8. rebecca Grenville says:

    I think that China’s extreme media censorship and history of human rights abuse make it hard to know if Crystal has seen the same coverage we have in the west or any really
    Also China’s history of *vanishing* celebrities and other manipulation make it even harder to judge someone trying to survive under autocratic rule

  9. Enid says:

    Total conspiracy theory here – maybe the Chinese government has some sort of leverage over her? Probably not, but it sounds like something the Chinese government would do.

  10. Lavaish says:

    The extradition bill means if you commit a crime in China, Hong Chong will extradite you to China. If you commit a crime in Hong Chong you do not get extradited to China. Good try though.

  11. Chisey says:

    My understanding is that the whole ‘I support the Hong Kong police’ thing came out of an incident where some protestors thought a man was a Chinese spy trying to infiltrate so they beat him up. It turned out he was a journalist for a really nationalistic right wing Chinese news outlet, which made a lot of hay out of it and started the trend of saying something like ‘I support the Hong Kong police, beat me if you like’ on social media. I still support the protestors but in this incident they screwed up imo – you can’t beat up journalists, even if they are critical of you. I really hope that the protestors can get back on track, but the Chinese propaganda machine is in full force. It’s kind of shocking to me that it reaches a Chinese American actress, but I guess it shouldn’t.

    • Arpeggi says:

      The protestors actually targeted that individual BECAUSE he’s a journalist for a journal that’s basically just the voice of the central party (like, they’re pretty much just the propaganda agency of the party)… I actually understand why they did it even if I don’t condone violence against journalists. They also targeted another individual that was thought to be an undercover cop, don’t remember what happened to him.

      You have to understand that the cops/their helpers are playing extremely dirty: they are undercover and brutally arrest protestors from within the crowd (one guy was beaten up, handcuffed and his face was pushed in a puddle of his own blood to choke on!)

  12. Cindy says:

    I’m talking out of my ass here, but isn’t this common among Chinese entertainers? I recall reading lots of stories of Chinese celebrities getting backlash (outside of China) for supporting the govt. in times of crisis. From what I’ve heard, criticizing the Chinese govt. just a little bit can ruin your carreer over there.

    Just from what I remember though. I remember Jackie Chan and some Chinese actresses getting involved in similar dramas.

    • RoyalBlue says:

      They use the celebrities’ popularity. I am sure they are ‘encouraged’ to parrot support. Jackie Chan said something similar.

    • Lama Bean says:

      Yes , just read a VF article on Fan Bingbing and how the Chinese government is cracking down on celebrities and scaling back the movement to let Chinese celebrities amass a to. Of wealth. They’ve been targeting Chinese celebrities for tax evasion (bingbing was guilty but not the first to do so) in order to keep them under control of the regime. This was just her protecting herself and her family.

  13. Eliza says:

    Liu Wen also pulled out of a lucrative contract with Coach and will owe them money for breaking contract early. Which makes me think a lot of public figures are being pressured to make public gestures for China as tensions grow with Hong Kong.

    Then again, maybe it’s just good ol patriotism for their homeland and I’m too tinfoil hat-y this morning.

    The only American similarity I can think of is if PR or another US territory wanted independence. But most Americans don’t understand PR is American so it’s not apples and oranges.

  14. Powermoonchrystal says:

    She is also an American. Not totally buying the excuse she is helpless against the government. Boycotting the movie (for all that is worth). As bad as the dituation is, only PR is stopping the Chinese government from doing to protesters what has been done in Venezuela and Nicaragua. I am thinking of boycotting Top Gun too for similar reasons regarding the movie’s funding.

    • R. says:

      She works and lives in China though and erm Chinese gov IS scary AF. They kidnap people. They can put people under heavy guarded house arrest or like Fan Bing Bing, THE most visible and highest earning Chinese actress, be put somewhere far from all her friends, loved ones or legal counsel. They also also have a very well oiled censorship/propaganda machine. Say one wrong thing and…Some Hong Kong artists working in China is doing the whole ‘I support HK police ‘ too. People are really, really scared. Especially after Chinese gov went hard after the tax evading celebrities. I’m not saying she is doing this out of fear, she can very well be a nationalist, but to say she can protect herself against the Chinese gov… I don’t think so.

      Also @Kaiser, the way you’ve worded the explanation of the extradition bill is not completely correct.

    • Powermoonchrystal says:

      The Top Gun sequel seems to also have conceded on some issues due to their relationship to Chinese gov. funding, so I was also considering boycotting that one (again, for whatever is worth since I am sure neither of these movies will need my money).

    • Powermoonchrystal says:

      I understand her situation better now. Thanks for explaining. However, having family under autocratic rule makes me think twice about supporting the movie, and other movies (Top Gun 2) with major interests in this particular government. I cannot stop buying a phone or clothes (although I am trying to buy less), but I can decide not to watch a movie. It is hard to know how to support this type of efforts from afar, so I recognize these boycotts may only help those outside of the turmoil feel better.

  15. kerwood says:

    I guess the suffering of the people of Hong Kong is less important to her than her box office receipts.

    I was always ashamed of Great Britain for simply cutting the people of Hong Kong loose to the mercy of China when Hong Kong was ‘returned’. After hundreds of years of British rule, the people of Hong Kong weren’t given the chance to become British citizens or even move to Britain, thanks to Thatcher’s (and her cronies) racism. Not many people stood up in support of the people of Hong Kong and it was very sad.

    I met several Hong Kong expats who moved to Canada and they were such sad people. They felt betrayed and afraid for the future of Hong Kong. Looks like they were right.

    We know what’s going to happen to Hong Kong. Look at Tibet. But I’m so proud of the people of Hong Kong for refusing to go down without a fight and for showing the world what fighting for democracy looks like. A lot of us took take a lesson from Hong Kong’s courage and determination.

    • Courtney says:

      GB could’ve done much better by the people of HK (their subjects!).

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      I wouldn’t say HK was under British rule for hundreds of years, it was 156 years. The history of British occupation is a bit complex and its worth remembering that there are 3 parts of HK. HK Island which the British ‘won’ from the Qing dynasty in 1841 after the 1st Opium Wars, they then took control of the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the 2nd Opium War and finally they got a 99 year lease for the New Territories in 1898. HK Island and Kowloon were ceded in perpetuity, the leased area (New Territories) made up 92% of the area and it was determined (by the UK gov) that there was no viable way to divide the now single colony and the Chinese gov were not going to allow the UK to extend the NT lease any further (they point blank refused to recognise British sovereignty, only that we had a presence). It took a long time to reach an agreement and part of the agreement was that the Chinese would guarantee to preserve HK’s systems, freedoms, and way of life for at least 50 years – which they have gone back on. China refused to recognise the previous treaties that had legally ceded HK Island and Kowloon to the British in perpetuity, China pretty much threatened to take HK by force during their talks with Thatcher.

      It didn’t matter what the people wanted, the Chinese were never going to allow them to decide their own future under the UN’s right to self determination rules. As I said the Chinese were very prepared to take it by force, starting a war that the UK couldn’t win.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handover_of_Hong_Kong#Overview

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Its also worth adding that the UN didn’t back up the UK and the Portuguese (over Macau) as they passed a resolution in 1972 removing both from their official list of colonies, pretty much removing any protections the colonies had by being recognised under the UN.

        And yeah the UK gov at the time could have done more for the people of HK but I don’t recall the UK gov stopping them from coming over here. Mass migration from HK started long before the handover with 66,000 leaving alone in the handover year. Many choose to go to other parts of the Commonwealth with Canada and Australia being quite popular (due to their closeness to HK). Singapore was also a popular destination for HK expats looking to leave. There is also a large HK expat community in Scotland.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_nationality_law_and_Hong_Kong

        The catch was that if an HK resident wanted to claim a British passport/citizenship they had to have done it before the handover date as after that they lost the right as they automatically become solely Chinese citizens.

      • Mrs.Krabapple says:

        The UN generally doesn’t like colonies. Self-determination (for good or bad) is preferred. If the HK people can prevail in their demands, good for them. But if even a “free” country like the USA wont give some of its residents self-determination (like restoring the Hawaiian monarchy), I dont know what hope HK has.

  16. Algernon says:

    It’s not as easy as saying dumb kids are supporting oppressors, or that she should just shut up and say nothing, or “stay in America” or whatever (she is Chinese-American but she was born in China and her family is entirely Chinese. She gained citizenship while living in the US as a teenager, so I’m not sure China would really see her as an “American citizen,” she is undoubtedly Chinese to them with an American escape hatch they will not want her to use). Liu Yifei works primarily in China, and most of her family is there. Further, her family is entrenched in Chinese politics. Public figures in China are under enormous pressure to support the Chinese gov at all times. All of the major Chinese stars have spoken in support of the Chinese gov, including Tony Leung and Jackie Chan. This is a lot bigger than one up and coming Disney star. It would be like 45 demanding every celebrity publicly support him or he would blacklist their careers, except the Chinese gov actually has the power to end these people’s careers and harm their families. The story here is not that Liu Yifei is an idiot who supports dictators, it’s that China is a dictatorship and speaking out against the gov is a potentially life-threatening thing to do. The protestors in HK are very brave, but I also understand Chinese celebs not being willing to support them, it is literally life and death.

    • Div says:

      I do want to point out it’s Tony Leung Kai-fai who (mildly) spoke out in favor of the mainland, not Tony Leung Chiu-wai. A lot of the US media was reporting it was the latter.

      I strongly support the protestors, but I agree with your assessment. A lot of famous figures may be terrified that their families will be hurt if they don’t speak out against the protests—the CCP has absolutely made family members “pay” for others, before. Fear for her brother is allegedly why Fan Bingbing didn’t flee China after she was released and instead basically went on an apology tour.

  17. isabel says:

    It’s not just her, many Chinese stars not known for having any political views at all are making the same posts on their social media, it’s all very strange.

  18. Esme says:

    Has Disney given a statement about this? Or are they happy to just court that Chinese money, while purporting to tell moral tales for our children?
    I will boycott this movie. Disney is morally bankrupt.

  19. CC says:

    Tbh, I don’t think most Chinese people care about the turmoil that Hong Kong is embroiled in. They are way to busy being productive and living a fruitful life back home.

    If any of you want to gain a true understanding of the situation, then I suggest that you visit China and Hong Kong in person, or speak with locals who live in China and Hong Kong and note the differences in their demeanour and outlook on life.

    The root of the issue is rarely what it appears to be on the surface. I don’t want to mention anything specific here because the western propaganda is ever prominent, especially on social media. For those of you familiar with Canadian politics, the situation with Quebec is somewhat similar, but people in Quebec are generally much happier with life in general.

    Furthermore, nowadays, a considerable number of former expats are relishing their foreign citizenships or splitting their time in-between China and elsewhere due to the abundant opportunities there.

    • OuiOkay says:

      . Let’s be real, yeah there are great opportunities there especially for the rich. Are any of these opportunities clean or are they all due to the inhumane labour laws that make many businesses profitable ?

      I’ve been to both places. The people are very different that’s for sure. I don’t understand which place in your analogy is quebec?
      Are we happier in Quebec? Personally I’m from elsewhere in Canada and yes super happy in Montreal. But the rest of the province just voted in a premier who has reduced and changed immigration and forbidden public servants like teachers and lawyers from wearing hijabs turbans and yarmulkes. He ran with these policies not a secret. So those people in small towns idk how happy they were when they voted for him.

  20. Amber says:

    There are also reports that the Chinese have tapped Hong Kong’s organized crime bosses for more muscle to crack down on the protests. As an American, I stand with the people of Hong Kong who are trying to protect their democratic values. I haven’t seen any of the Disney remakes except for Beauty and the Beast, so I don’t think I’ll see this one. I’d rather watch the original.

  21. DS9 says:

    I don’t know why we are dismissing the idea that this actress may be justifiably afraid of the Chinese government just because she’s an American citizen. It seems the height of hubris to believe her immune to threats simply due to a passport.

    Why should a young, somewhat unknown Asian actress trust a Trump state department?

    The situations aren’t the same, I know but Warmbier’s passport didn’t save him.

    • DrG says:

      Chinese government doesn’t recognize dual nationality, anyway. They have a very traditional conception of nationality.

  22. kerwood says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese government is intimidating Chinese actors because the Chinese government is pretty evil. See: Tibet. Also see what China is up to in Africa. I boycotted the Beijing Olympics because of Chinese policies in Tibet and Africa. I hadn’t planned on seeing this movie, but now I know that China has an interest in it, I will definitely NOT see it.

  23. CairinaCat says:

    She has family in China that were most likely threatened, so I doubt she really had a choice in what she said if she wanted her family to stay safe

  24. DrG says:

    To be fair, she probably has zero capacity to really assess the situation thanks to Chinese propaganda. I lived in HK for years, through the last rounds of protesting in 2014, and the protestors couldn’t have been any more ideal. Yet Chinese tabloids were showing photos of used needles and trash strewing the streets (where I took my 3 year old to play! 🙄). Hong Kongers are savvy protestors and the Chinese government goes to great lengths to paint them as a minority, as violent, and as illegitimate.