- Disney is facing backlash for filming parts of the live-action “Mulan” remake in Xinjiang, the region of China where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained and imprisoned in internment camps.
- The credits of the film also thank the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang–based publicity department, as well as the public security bureau for a city located in the region.
- This has led people to continue calls for a boycott of the film. Previous boycott calls existed because the film’s lead actress, Lui Yifei, has made comments in support of Hong Kong police cracking down on pro-democracy protesters.
- Still, app downloads for Disney+ jumped nearly 70% over the weekend as the movie came out on the platform, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Backlash for Filming in Xinjiang
Disney is facing backlash for filming parts of its live-action remake of “Mulan” in the Xinjiang region of China, where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained and imprisoned in internment camps.
In addition to filming in Xinjiang, in the movie’s credits, the studio gives special thanks to groups located in that area of China. Those groups include the Chinese Communist Party’s publicity department located in Xinjiang, as well as the public security bureau in Turpan, which is a city in the region.
China has come under repeated fire for what is happening to Uighurs in Xinjiang. The United States has openly condemned it and imposed sanctions as a result. China has maintained that the structures they have built there are not concentration camps, but reports indicate otherwise. Some Uighurs have died in these camps, and others have undergone forced sterilization, resulting in increasingly shrinking birth rates.
The details of Disney’s partnership with the region have not been released, but an Instagram post from Niki Caro, the director of “Mulan,” shows that she and Disney were location scouting in the area in 2017. Production for the picture began in 2018. While human rights abuses have been going on for years in Xinjiang, some reports indicate that efforts ramped up around then, and that concentration camps were being built in that same year.
By filming in Xinjiang and crediting government entities in the region, many think Disney has just publicly thanked the same groups who are responsible for these camps, and one of the worst mass human rights violations occurring right now. Some are calling for audiences to boycott “Mulan” because of this.
Yaqiu Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, demanded on Twitter that Disney share details about its filming of “Mulan,” as well as what kind of human rights due diligence it conducted before choosing to film there.
Amnesty International also tweeted asking for the studio to release its human rights due diligence report.
Other Boycott Calls
This was not the only hot water “Mulan” landed in as it hit its premium VOD release on Friday. Many had previously called for a boycott of the “Mulan” remake because its lead actress, Lui Yifei, made comments in support of Hong Kong police cracking down on pro-democracy protesters. Those calls were reignited this weekend. After activist Agnes Chow was arrested her supporters started calling her the “real Mulan,” giving this second wave of the boycott calls traction.
“When you watch #Mulan, not only are you turning a blind eye to police brutality and racial injustice (due to what the lead actors stand for), you’re also potentially complicit in the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs,” Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong tweeted.
It’s unclear how effective any boycotting efforts have been as Disney+ has not released data on how many people purchased “Mulan.” However, a Sunday Bloomberg report indicates that the remake may have given the streaming platform a boost.
Bloomberg says that Disney+ app downloads went up 68% between Friday and Sunday after the film hit the service. Consumer spending on the site also saw a 193% jump up.
Disney and China
“Mulan” will debut in theaters in China this Friday. Disney has stopped at almost nothing to ensure that the project would be a success in the country. Back in the ‘90s, the studio hoped its animated “Mulan” would be a hit in China, but at the time, the country ended up shutting Disney out of its film market for distributing a movie called “Kundun” because it glorified the Dalai Lama. Disney then had to jump through hoops and cater to their film industry in order to get it released there a year later.
Since then, Disney has worked overtime to make sure it is a success in China, both at its box office, theme parks, and elsewhere. Having “Mulan” triumph there was a priority for the movie-making giant, but many think Disney kowtowed to China to do so. Isaac Stone Fish, a contributor for The Washington Post, wrote that this “Mulan” remake has become Disney’s most problematic film since the blatantly racist 1946 picture “Song of the South” because of the “shameful compromises” Disney made while producing the film.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (The Guardian)
Petition Calls for Ban on Sexualized Fanfiction in South Korea
- A petition circulating across South Korea calls for sexualized fanfiction depicting K-pop stars and other real people to be outlawed and classified as sex crimes.
- The petition particularly focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and argues that they often feature people who are minors.
- A similar petition was submitted last week to President Moon Jae-in; however, it focused on deep fakes. Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon.
K-Pop Fanfiction Causes Chaos
A petition began circulating across South Korea this week demanding that “real person slash” fanfiction works be outlawed and charged as sex crimes.
“Real person slash” refers to a specific form of fanfiction that most often features sexualized versions of K-pop stars and other real people.
In particular, the petition focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and the age of some of the people being portrayed. The petition notes, “due to the nature of the profession of idols, whose average age is young, many of the victims are still minors or children.”
The petition was submitted to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, and currently has over 200,000 signatures. It received a big boost in attention after K-pop star Nancy, from the group Momoland, was secretly filmed by a member of her agency while she was changing backstage. This person then doctored some of the images and uploaded them online.
While Nancy’s case isn’t hand-drawn fanfic, it did fuel outrage at what’s seen as an ineffective approach towards sex crimes in the country. Signers of this petition believe that these fanfics fall into the same category of likely illegality as deep fakes.
Deep Fakes Also Being Targeted
Additionally, just last week deep fakes – which often feature k-pop stars – had its own petition submitted to the president last week with over 300,000 signatures.
Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon Jae-in
For years South Korea has struggled with secret cameras, deep fakes, revenge porn, and more violent sex crimes, such as the infamous Nth Room case that saw certain stars filming themselves having sex with women against their consent.
See What Others Are Saying: (CNA) (The Korea Herald) (South China Morning Post)
Italy Begins Largest Mob Trial in Decades
- Italian prosecutors have started their trial against more than 320 defendants linked to the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
- The charges range from murder and drug trafficking to extortion and money laundering.
- The case is so large, high-profile, and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
- Details uncovered could deliver a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealings in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.
Hundreds of ‘Ndranghetisti Facing Charges
A major mob trial kicked off in Italy Wednesday involving more than 320 defendants who are part of or associated with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
In addition to these defendants going on trial, 90 others have elected for a fast-tracked trial elsewhere in Calabria.
While this is a massive affair, it’s still not the country’s largest mob-related trial in history. That happened in the ’80s against the Cosa Nostra from Sicily.
The trial is so high-profile and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, close to the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
The court is looking at many charges against the defendants, including extortion, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and Mafia association – a term used in Italy’s penal code for members of organized crime.
Breaking Into the Family
Investigators hope that the trial will show just how entrenched organized crime is in the territory, as it’s believed that the ‘Ndrangheta has dealings with local politicians and businessmen. These dealings are believed to not only stem from their illicit activities but also from their legitimate businesses that were initially funded via crime-related funds. Either way, the trial is seen as a major blow for the group.
The organization is made up of multiple groups of tight-knight families that are all interconnected. For years investigators have tried to get more information on the group but following the arrest and prosecution of Luigi Mancuso, a boss in the ‘Ndrangheta, investigators finally had a way to look more closely at 12 families who make up part of the ‘Ndrangheta.
During their investigation police and prosecutors managed to turn some members of those families and use them as informants. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses during the trial. In total, prosecutors hope to put bring out over 900 witnesses.
If successful, this could be a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealing in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.
See What Others Are Saying: (ABC News) (LA Times) (Chicago Tribune)
Hundreds Sickened By Mysterious Illness in India
- A mystery illness has hospitalized over 500 people in India and is linked to one death. While most people have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, under 100 people are still being treated.
- Health officials believe that it is not a viral infection and that it is not tied to the coronavirus pandemic. One official told The Washington Post that it is a “point source epidemic,” but no one knows what is causing it.
- Blood tests showed patients had high levels of lead and nickel and officials are trying to find what is behind that. Some are also pointing to pesticides used in mosquito treatment as a potential cause behind the outbreak.
- Still, health officials are puzzled, and the situation comes while India currently trails the United States as the country with the most coronavirus cases. This mystery outbreak is also occurring in one of the hardest-hit states.
Mystery Illness in India
Health officials are still looking for what might be causing a mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds of people this month in India.
The unidentified illness has put over 500 people in the hospital and taken one life. Most patients have been discharged and recovered but under 100 are still being treated. The disease was first reported on Sunday, and new instances have gone down since the start of the week.
The outbreak started in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Symptoms range from nausea to anxiety to loss of consciousness, and in some cases, seizures. Some reports say the patient who died suffered from a seizure. Others note they may have fallen as well.
Many patients describe the sickness as hitting them quickly and suddenly as they were going about their day. Some got foggy vision, sore eyes, or incredibly tired before passing out. Many woke up in the hospital and were left with a gap in their memory.
While the cause of this disease is unknown, health officials do not believe it is tied to the coronavirus in any way as no patients have tested positive. The illness is also not believed to be a viral infection of any kind.
“What has been established by experts is that this is a case of acute intoxication of toxins. It is not chronic in nature. This is all we know for now,” one high-ranking official told The Washington Post.
Because cases are already slowing significantly, some believe it might have stemmed from an isolated source or event.
“This is a point source epidemic,” another official told the Post. “Whatever happened, occurred for one particular day and some people got affected. The number of new patients has dropped.”
What that source or event may have been remains a mystery that officials are eager to solve. So far, no commonalities have been found between the patients as they all live in different places, are of different ages, and do not test positive for other kinds of illnesses that could be causing or contributing to this outbreak. Clues are beginning to emerge, though.
One medical official told Al Jazeera that high lead and nickel levels were found in the blood tests of patients. So far, ten have been tested and another 30 will be tested shortly. At first officials thought these levels may have been a result of water contamination, but after water tests were conducted, neither lead nor nickel were found.
Water contamination as a whole has not been ruled out though.
“Health experts suspect that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures may be the cause of water contamination,” the Health Minister of Andhra Pradesh told the Indian Express. “This is just one of the causes we are exploring.”
Another theory at play stems from the fact that organochlorines, which are used as pesticides in mosquito control, were found in some water samples. One of the federal legislators in the state believes that the sickness could be tied to that. A public health director confirmed to Al Jazeera that “it is one of the possibilities.”
Timing With COVID-19
Still, all these ideas simply remain possibilities and officials have far more questions than they have answers about this situation. Health officials from the country and the World Health Organization have established a presence in Andhra Pradesh to get to the bottom of the situation.
The timing of this outbreak is unfortunate as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through India. While daily cases are much lower than they were when it peaked in September in the country, it still remains an issue.
India is behind the United States in seeing the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, totaling 9.7 million infections. Around 141,000 people have died in the country. In August, their outbreak was the fastest growing in the world. Andhra Pradesh is among the hardest-hit states in the country.
Hope is on the horizon as India, like many other countries, could be on track to approve a vaccine within weeks. According to Reuters, health officials will prioritize 300 million people, including healthcare workers, policemen, and those above the age of 50.