Spark for Debate: “Mulan” Cultural Cleansing & Communism


Helene Burch using Google Maps

Reported right is internment camp and left is detention center in Kumukusa’erxiang, Makit County, Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang, China

Disney released the live action “Mulan” remake on September 4 and it soon became a spark for debate. In the credits, Disney thanks the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) Committee and the Public Security Bureau in Turpan for letting the company film in the Xixiang province, a province with a known 100 internment camps.
Why did Disney film in this area? The answer is unclear. Most of the movie was filmed in New Zealand. However, the folktale is set in the Northern Wei Dynasty, southeast of Xixiang.
The XUAR Government is committing an unofficial genocide of the Muslim Uygher ethnic group. The Wall Street Journal reported that cultural cleansing started out as forcing Han Chinese, the primary ethnic group in China, into Uyghur homes to spy on families and ask about religious practices. The Han Chinese would become “one of the family” by living with the Uyghers and being referred to as a “new family member.”
The Congressional Research Service reported that, by 2016, “thousands of neighborhood police kiosks” were being used to watch the Uyghers. In 2017, military tanks could be spotted in Urumqi, the capital. On September 28, of the same year, Niki Caro, the director of “Mulan”, posted photos on Instagram from the capital with the caption “Day 5 – China Scout.”
Throughout 2017 and 2018, the Wall Street Journal investigated Urumqi for crimes against the Ugyhers. In 2017, the city still had Muslim markets and Ughyer language signs, which masked the wrongdoings. But by 2018, whole neighborhoods were destroyed and replaced by high-rise apartments. The once bustling Muslim markets were completely gone. It is presumed that “Mulan”’s filming crew would have seen these changes.
By 2018, when “Mulan” was filming in Xinjiang, an estimated 1.5 million Ugyhers had already been unlawfully arrested by the XUAR and the Public Security Bureau in Turpan, who run the internment camps. As of March 2020, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) reported 1.8 million known Ugyhers unlawfully arrested.
When the Ugyhers are arrested, they are sent to camps and forced into labor for major companies and required to take classes to receive an ideological education. Women are sterilized as an effort to help force the population of the Ugyhers down, the CECC reported.
Despite the atrocities happening in Xiaxing, political backlash is being thrown at the lead actress of “Mulan” as well. In response to pro-democracy protests against the Hong Kong police and the new National Security Law, actress Lui Yufei posted on her Weibo account, “I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.”
Joshua Wong, leader of the Hong Kong protests and former democractic party Demosisto, tweeted “It just keeps getting worse! Now, when you watch #Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to police brutality (due to what the lead actors stand for), you’re also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghers. #BoycottMulan.”
Angered supporters of the Hong Kong protests have offered a new Mulan figure, Anges Chow. Anges Chow is one of the founding members of Scholarism, an organization that started the Umbrella movement, where thousands of students camped in the streets, using umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas, to fight for free elections and Hong Kong-run schooling. Scholarism has since then led several other major pro-democracy protests. Chow was arrested for the fourth time in August for protesting the communist rule from Beijing. If she was found guilty, she could serve a life sentence. However, she has been released on bail. Cantopop singer Denise Ho tweeted on August 11, “Our Mulan, our pride. #FreeAgnes #Hongkong” along with a picture of Agnes Chow.
In response to a question about the Uyghurs in China, Wang Yi, Foreign Minister and State Councilor of China, released a post on the Chinese Embassy’s website that states “China is open to the world, therefore friends from all walks of life are welcome to experience China’s development and changes. However, people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang will definitely not welcome those who have biased views and a presumption of guilt.” He added “that it is legitimate and reasonable for the Chinese side to formulate the national security law for Hong Kong, as a way to improve and strengthen Hong Kong’s rule of law, and expounded on the fruitful results of de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang.”