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What's behind the push to boycott Disney's new 'Mulan' movie?

The new live-action movie is sparking outrage for ignoring social issues and for a lack of diversity behind the scenes.
/ Source: TODAY

Disney's new live-action "Mulan" movie is one of the first major movie releases since the coronavirus pandemic shut down production, but activists fueling a #BoycottMulan movement are hoping people don't pay $29.99 to stream the film.

While the film has been hotly anticipated by fans of the original animated feature, it's also been plagued by several controversies.

Lead actor's comments anger pro-democracy activists

Last year, lead actor Liu Yifei made comments on Chinese social media site Weibo supporting Hong Kong's police, who were accused of carrying out acts of violence against pro-democracy protestors.

"I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now," the Chinese-American actor wrote in Mandarin, according to NBC News. "What a shame for Hong Kong," she added in English.

Liu's comments came during a period of unrest in Hong Kong over a draconian extradition law that could send citizens accused of crimes to mainland China and concerns about the city's deteriorating autonomy from China.

Her comments sparked the #BoycottMulan hashtag in August 2019.

Earlier this month, Jason T. Reed, one of the movie’s producers, voiced support for Liu in an interview with Yahoo News.

“Well, I think that first off, it’s a very complicated situation for performers who live in China and work in China,” he said. “Obviously, the tensions between the two entities is very complicated.”

He added, “I feel badly for her, that the conversation is inevitably, it inevitably turns to this, and I hope that when audiences see the movie that the conversation turns back to what an amazing performance she brought in and how hard, how much she had to do in order to bring that character to life.”

Her co-star, Donnie Ten, also angered activists with a Facebook comment on July 1 celebrating the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong transitioning from British colonial rule and returning to China.

Tensions are still high in Hong Kong. Last month, the United States suspended three treaties with the territory after China secretly passed a security law for Hong Kong, which grants the country broad powers to crack down on people for a variety of offenses, including exercising their civil liberties, and impose harsh sentences, including life in prison.

Parts were filmed in China's Xinjiang province where over 1 million Uyghur Muslim residents are being detained in camps

A city in an area of China where one of the biggest human rights abuse stories currently happening received a special thank you in the credits of "Mulan."

The “publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee was acknowledged at the end of the film, sparking additional calls to boycott the film.

"It just keeps getting worse! Now, when you watch #Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to the police brutality and racial injustice (due to what the lead actors stand for), you're also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Musliim Uyghurs," Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist wrote on Twitter.

China has been criticized by human rights activists for detaining more than 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang, many of whom are of the Uyghur minority. The country's government has referred to the camps as "voluntary education centers"; however, reports from people in the camps have painted a different picture.

They've reported being subjected to forced labor and sterilization and undergoing political indoctrination programs, according to Amnesty International.

There's a lack of Asian people working behind the scenes

While the live action movie was supposed to be a big win for Asian representation in a major motion picture, Disney was criticized for not doing enough to also hire Asian talent to work behind the scenes.

The director, screenwriters and costume designer, three of the most important behind the scenes jobs, were filled by people who were not of Chinese descent.

As one social media user wrote earlier this year: “You cannot just plop Asian actors in front of a camera & call it a day!”

TODAY reached out to Disney for comment on the #BoycottMulan movement, but did not immediately hear back.