In September 2020, Disney released its newest movie, Mulan. It is the story of a brave young woman disguising herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China. Since the release in September 2020, Mulan is assessed to have made $66.8 million. The release was met with significant criticism from human rights organisations. It was not the story itself that triggered the criticism. The issue was that Mulan was partially filmed in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in close proximity to detention camps for Uighur Muslims, and Disney gave credit to “publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee” among other entities.
In recent months Xinjiang has been the focus of intense public scrutiny due to damaging accusations of persecution against the Uighur Muslim population. These include allegations of mass incarcerations, torture and abuse, forced sterilisation, forced abortions and much more. All are being denied by Chinese officials.
Across the world, several Parliamentarians and governments have referred to the atrocities as severe human rights violations, and even genocide or crimes against humanity, calling for action. However, despite the allegations being in the public domain for several months now, the evidence has not been reviewed by any court or international independent inquiry, although some steps in this direction have been taken. Among more pro-active responses, in July, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated three senior CCP officials, Chen Quanguo, the Party Secretary of the Xinjiang; Zhu Hailun, Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee; and Wang Mingshan, the current Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for their involvement in gross violations of human rights. Pompeo placed further visa restrictions on “other CCP officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang.” These designations and visa restrictions were in addition to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Global Magnitsky Designations of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau and four current or former officials of the People’s Republic of China – Chen Quanguo; Zhu Hailun; Wang Mingshan; and Huo Liujun – for their roles in serious human rights abuse.
Several human rights activists have called for a boycott of the Mulan movie and have urged cinemas not to screen it. Others, including British Parliamentarians, have written to Disney asking for them to distance themselves from what is happening in Xinjiang and to issue an apology.
Sean Bailey, Disney’s president of film production, recently responded that “Although Mulan was filmed almost entirely in New Zealand, in order to accurately depict the unique geography and landscape of China for this period drama, the producers chose to film some scenery in 20 locations throughout the country, including the Kumtag Desert in Xinjiang Province, home to an important passageway along the historic Silk Road. The decision to film in each of these locations was made by the film’s producers in the interest of authenticity, and was in no way dictated or influenced by state or local Chinese officials.”
Bailey explained that “There are regulations that must be followed by all foreign film production companies wanting to operate in China. These companies are not allowed to operate independently and must partner with a Chinese production company which is responsible for securing all film permits.” He further added that at the time of seeking the relevant permits “Neither the U.K. not the U.S. Government had issued a risk advisory for businesses nor made any relevant policy rulings specific to the region.”
Despite shedding some light on the processes involved, Bailey did no comment on the allegations nor confirmed that if Disney was aware of the allegations, Disney would have had reconsidered the location. The handling of the situation, even if after the fact, is not irrelevant. Corporations like Disney have obligations pertaining human rights. Turning a blind eye on mass atrocities such as the alleged genocide of the Uighur people will mark their human rights record for years to come.
Source: Forbes – Business