China is reportedly using Twitter bots to promote Mulan after Hong Kong backlash. The new live-action remake of Disney’s hit 1998 animated feature, Mulan, is due to arrive in theatres next spring. Lately, however, the film has been hit with a substantial bit of controversy over allegiances in the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Now in their 11thweek, the leaderless protests in Hong Kong have been a huge thorn in the side of mainland China. Originating over an extradition bill that would have seen Hong Kong criminal suspects legally extradited to China to face trial, the protests have expanded beyond the now suspended bill and blossomed into a wider fight for political and social freedoms. As the protests continue to grow and gain sympathetic support from around the globe, some Chinese celebrities have taken to social media to offer their support for China and the Hong Kong police. Among these outspoken patriots is Crystal Yifei Liu, star of Disney’s upcoming Mulan remake. Last week, Liu prompted a substantial backlash after taking to Chinese social media site Weibo to show her unwavering support for the Hong Kong police. Not long after her post was made, the #BoycottMulan hashtag began to trend globally.
In response to the popularity of the hashtag and the outright fury that Liu’s words and support have caused among some, it appears that the Chinese government is attempting to steer the discontent away from any potential Mulan boycotts. According to Variety, Twitter has already axed more than 200,000 accounts from China that were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement.” What’s more, the ongoing bot accounts are attempting to subvert the Mulan boycott by pushing the hashtag #SupportMulan. Some samples of the accounts and their messages can be seen below:
In addition to Twitter’s battle against Chinese bots, Facebook has also followed suit, having already deleted seven pages, three groups, and five accounts. According to Facebook, the accounts had links to the Chinese government, all of which were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. At the center of many of these pro-China Twitter and Facebook memes are Liu and Mulan, with the Chinese government now equating the Disney film’s story and main character as a symbol of Chinese nationality, strength, and perseverance. Oddly enough, Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, so the bot campaign is clearly an attempt to sway the sympathies of global populations beyond China and likely within Hong Kong itself.
As of this writing, Disney has yet to make any statement regarding the Mulan boycott and China’s response to it. Chinese tabloid newspaper The Global Times has made its stance clear, by reminding readers that Disney needs Chinese viewers for its upcoming film and cannot risk “disrespecting Chinese people’s feelings” by removing Liu from Mulan. At any rate, it’s highly unlikely that Disney will remove Liu from the film, but it is already unfortunate that Mulan has been put at the center of a hard-fought struggle for freedom in Hong Kong.
- Mulan (2020) release date: Mar 27, 2020