Disney faces backlash after thanking Xinjiang authorities in ‘Mulan’ credits

Last month Coda’s Isobel Cockerell reported how investors were being urged to pull their money out of companies that have links to China’s ongoing mass internment and forced labor campaign in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Investor Alliance of Human Rights, a non-profit initiative focusing on responsible business conduct, published a report where it urged investors to assess companies’ human rights impact on minorities in Xinjiang. 

Last week, The Walt Disney Company came under fire from human rights activists who called for a boycott of the studio’s latest release, “Mulan”, after it emerged that the $200 million live-action film, which was partly shot in Xinjiang, ends with thanks to several government institutions, including the Xinjiang government’s publicity department. 

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong was among those who promoted the hashtags #BoycottMulan and #BanMulan on Twitter.

In Xinjiang, authorities are believed to have detained as many as one million Uyghurs and members of other minority groups in internment camps, officially described as vocational education and training centers. In June, Coda Story analyzed videos on the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, which showed Uyghurs being forcibly transported in large numbers to factories around the country as part of what Beijing describes as a “poverty alleviation” initiative. 

Louisa Greve, director of global advocacy at Uyghur Human Rights Project, said investors should pressure Disney to make a bold move to salvage its reputation. “Investors should press Disney to make reparations for its complicity. Tens of thousands of separated Uyghur families in the diaspora are stranded in nearby countries without legal status to work, to access medical cases, to enroll their children to attend school. Thousands are being made stateless as their Chinese passports expire, while China refuses to renew their passports unless they return to China, where they would face horrific human rights abuses.”

In the wake of the overseas controversy, Chinese state publication Global Times, citing analysts, described the calls to boycott “Mulan” as “narrow-minded attacks on Xinjiang.” According to Reuters, major media companies in China have received a notice from Cyberspace Administration of China to not cover the movie.

“Disney’s Mulan disaster will surely be a universal case study for reputational-risk experts for years to come,” added Greve. “Every brand must already be scrambling to be sure they are not the next Disney.”

Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Mariam Kiparoidze

Mariam Kiparoidze is an associate producer at Coda Story.

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