Disney is being criticized by politicians, moviegoers, religious rights activists and victims of Chinese torture after perceptive viewers noticed something disturbing in a film’s credits. The film Mulan includes a credit to government departments in a region where Muslims are currently being detained and killed. The credits reveal a “special thanks” section listing several Chinese municipal departments, mainly in the city of Turpan.
The Uighur enslavement has been likened to genocide, and while it’s essentially impossible for foreign journalists to get access to the camps, satellite photos have shown the expanding scope of these facilities across Xinjiang.
It is reported that Disney would have to have gone to great lengths to conceal the connection. According to Washington Post reporter Isaac Stone Fish the studio purposely mistranslated the credit changing it to “Publicity Department from the actual Chinese “Propaganda Department. Turpan is in the Xinjiang region, where more than a million Muslims have been imprisoned in government-run concentration camps, tortured and killed. Other reports indicate that the prisoners have also been the victim of organ harvesting, a practice also used against Christians and Falun Gong adherents.
Critics say Disney chose to film Mulan in China — and in this region of China specifically — as part of an ongoing attempt to court favor with the Chinese government.
On Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, condemning the company for “whitewashing the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities during the production of Mulan.”
Hawley’s letter (in full below) asks Disney whether it will pull Mulan from Disney+ “to avoid further glorifying CCP officials and agencies responsible for the atrocities in Xinjiang.” He also requests that Disney explain what assistance the studio received from communist party agencies “involved in the genocide and how the agencies were compensated.”
Mulan specifically thank the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang uyghur autonomous region committee in the credits.
You know, the place where the cultural genocide is happening.
— Jeannette Ng 吳志麗 (@jeannette_ng) September 7, 2020
The credit means that for Mulan to be filmed in China, Disney collaborated with Xinjiang municipal departments that are currently facilitating the “largest-scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II” in the region, according to BuzzFeed News. They are part of the reason why it’s so dangerous to be a Muslim in China right now, particularly the Uighur minority ethnic group that mostly lives in Xinjiang. Uighur people have been imprisoned in camps, and there are reports of re-education programs, torture, slave labor, and forced sterilization.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 9, 2020
Disney can not claim ignorance as even as early as 2017 the New York Times was publishing stories about Chinese Muslims being detained and murdered. The Guardian‘s Beijing correspondent Lily Kuo points out that in 2018, Disney was filming in Xinjiang while the Chinese government launched its “strike hard” campaign, building more concentration camps nearby.
Mulan’s creative team has already been criticized by Chinese and Chinese-American viewers for its clumsy and Westernized depiction of Chinese history and storytelling tropes. This “research” also makes the film’s connection to Xinjiang even harder to excuse say many human right activists. Disney used 20 different Chinese locations when filming Mulan, but the film’s production and set designers spent months in Xinjiang for research purposes.
Several members of Congress are calling for investigations into Disney and its possible use of tax credits and favoritism by Communist Chinese authorities. The Hollywood movie industry is currently under scrutiny for its already close ties with China and propaganda elements that have already appeared in numerous films.
But this may be first for a film. Mulan may be children’s film in which Communist Chinese authorities were killing people just miles from the set.
Here’s Senator Hawley’s letter:
Dear Mr. Chapek:
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing genocide in Xinjiang—and not just cultural genocide either. There was a time when Beijing might have been satisfied with enslaving Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, even as it tortured them into abandoning their beliefs and swearing loyalty to the Party. But that is no longer the case. Now Beijing appears intent on destroying the Uighur people. And it has rolled out a sophisticated campaign to do just that, including by systematically sterilizing Uighur women and aborting their children.
On August 13, 2018, Walt Disney Studios announced that production had begun on Mulan. By that time, numerous reports had been released by the U.S. government and non-government organizations concerning the mass internment of Uighurs and others in camps in Xinjiang. But that did not stop Disney from going to Xinjiang to film Mulan. Nor did it stop Disney from collaborating with the Chinese officials directly responsible for the atrocities at those camps.
The Mulan closing credits tell the story. Nine minutes into the ten-minute credit roll, Disney gives “special thanks” to the Turpan Public Security Bureau—the very same bureau responsible for administering the concentration camps in the Turpan jurisdiction. Disney also chose to give “special thanks” to several CCP propaganda organs, including the Xinjiang Communist Party’s publicity department. These agencies are tasked with spreading disinformation about the atrocities in Xinjiang in order to shield Beijing from accountability.
Disney’s whitewashing of the ongoing Uighur genocide is contrary to all of your company’s supposed principles. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, you wrote about the need to “confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable—and less worthy of dignity, care and protection—than the lives of others.” Elsewhere, Disney has declared its commitment “to providing comfort, inspiration, and opportunity to children and families around the world” and described its “commitment to respect human rights” as a “core value.”
How exactly does giving “special thanks” to the officials responsible for imprisoning, torturing, and forcibly sterilizing millions of people because of their ethnicities and beliefs align with your supposed commitment to promoting human dignity and respecting human rights? How does glorifying the Chinese authorities perpetrating abuses in Xinjiang provide comfort, inspiration, and opportunity to Uighur children—including those who were never born because the CCP forced their mothers to abort them? Disney’s actions here cross the line from complacency into complicity.
For nearly a century, Disney has told stories, produced films, and built theme parks that inspired us, brought us together, and showed us the very best of what American had to offer the world. Your decision to uncritically approve this film’s release rather than apologizing to those harmed by Disney’s actions is reprehensible. Your decision to put profit over principle, to not just ignore the CCP’s genocide and other atrocities but to aid and abet them, is an affront to American values.
As you contemplate your next steps, I request your answers to the following questions:
Does Disney agree that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for imprisoning and torturing Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang?
Why did Disney choose to film portions of Mulan in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party was imprisoning and torturing Uighurs and others in Xinjiang at the same time?
What assistance did Disney receive from the Turpan Public Security Bureau and other Chinese government agencies involved in the atrocities in Xinjiang?
How did Disney compensate the Turpan Public Security Bureau and other Chinese agencies for any assistance rendered? Is Disney still providing compensation to the Chinese entities listed in the Mulan closing credits, and does it plan to provide compensation to these entities in the future?
Has Disney coordinated, collaborated, or otherwise engaged with any of the Chinese actors that have been designated for sanctions by the Treasury Department on account of their contributions to the atrocities in Xinjiang?
Does Disney condemn the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang?
Will Disney sever its relationships with the Chinese Communist Party in response to the Party’s abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and elsewhere?
Will Disney pull Mulan from Disney+ in order to avoid any further glorification of Xinjiang or validation of the Chinese Communist Party officials and agencies responsible for the atrocities in that province?
Will Disney donate any of the profits drawn from Mulan to non-governmental organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking and the other atrocities underway in Xinjiang?
Please deliver your responses to these questions to my office by September 30, 2020. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
United States Senator
–Dwight Widaman and Wire services