(Dis)Honor to Us All?: ‘Mulan’ actress sparks boycott calls after reposting rebuke of protesters

Actress Crystal Liu Yifei as Mulan in the live action remake of the eponymous Disney classic (left), and a post she made on Weibo rebuking Hong Kong’s protest movement (right). Screengrabs via YouTube/Weibo.
Actress Crystal Liu Yifei as Mulan in the live action remake of the eponymous Disney classic (left), and a post she made on Weibo rebuking Hong Kong’s protest movement (right). Screengrabs via YouTube/Weibo.

Crystal Liu Yifei, the Chinese actress who plays the titular lead in the upcoming live action remake of Disney’s Mulan, has drawn Hongkongers’ ire — and calls to boycott the film — after she reposted an apparent criticism of the city’s long-running protest movement on social media yesterday.

On her official Weibo account, Liu reposted an image featuring the slogans “I support the Hong Kong police. You can beat me now,” and “What a shame for Hong Kong,” adding the hashtag “#I Also Support the Hong Kong Police#” and emojis of a heart and a flexing muscle for good measure.

Screengrab via Weibo.
Screengrab via Weibo.

The image — created and disseminated by the state-run newspaper the People’s Daily — has been widely circulated on mainland social media as a rebuke to Hong Kong’s protesters.

It cribs a quote from a mainland man who was detained and assaulted by pro-democracy protesters who believed he was a “spy” during a chaotic blockade of Hong Kong’s airport on Tuesday night. Since the ugly incident, which made for a rare PR setback for Hong Kong’s protest movement, the man has been lionized by mainland netizens and media outlets as “a real man of iron.”

Chinese state media and officials, meanwhile, have also seized on the melee at the airport to spin a counter-narrative of “terrorist-like” behavior among Hong Kong’s protesters.

The image reposted by Liu, and others like it, have been aggressively promulgated by pro-Beijing accounts — including on platforms banned on the mainland, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Since Liu’s post, the hashtag #BoycottMulan has been gaining momentum online. But while those disappointed by the actress’s stance may be determined to make their ire felt at the box office, China’s market dwarfs Hong Kong’s by several orders of magnitude.

While offering “support” for Hong Kong’s police may seem innocuous, demands for an investigation into alleged police brutality has become a central element of the protest movement. Since the movement gained momentum, shows of support for the police — who have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons to quell demonstrations — have emerged as a way for the city’s pro-establishment camp to signal their opposition to the city’s young protesters.

The backlash against Liu, who was born in China, took aim at the apparent hypocrisy of her criticism given that she is also a naturalized American citizen.

“Liu Yifei is a US citizen enjoying liberty and freedom that the protestors are fighting for now,” one Reddit user said.

“How tone deaf do you have to be to support police brutality when you just filmed a character who is supposed to stand against oppression in its raw form?” another Twitter user asked.


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