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Disney Faces Backlash for Filming Parts of “Mulan” in Xinjiang Region

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  • 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 Xinjiangbased 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.

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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)

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New Zealand Considers Banning Cigarettes For People Born After 2004

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  • New Zealand announced a series of proposals that aim to outlaw smoking for the next generation with the hopes of being smoke-free by 2025.
  • Among the proposed provisions are plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and possibly prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004; effectively banning smoking for that generation.
  • Beyond that, the level of nicotine in products will likely be significantly reduced, setting a minimum price for tobacco and heavily restricting where it can be sold.
  • The proposals have proven to be popular as one in four New Zealand cancer deaths are tobacco-related, but some have criticized them as government overreach and worry a ban could lead to a bigger and more robust black market.

Smoke Free 2025

New Zealand announced sweeping new proposals on Thursday that would effectively phase out the use of tobacco products, a move that is in line with its hopes to become a smoke-free country by 2025.

Among a number of provisions, the proposals include plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and bar anyone born after 2004 from buying tobacco products. Such a ban would effectively end tobacco sales after a few decades. The government is also considering significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting filters, restricting locations where tobacco products can be purchased, and setting a steep minimum price for tobacco.

“We need a new approach.” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verral said when announcing the changes on Thursday. 

“About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach [a Smoke Free 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

The proposals received a large welcome from public health organizations and local groups. Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, an advocate for smoke-free Maori communities, told The Guardian that the plan “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country.” 

The Cancer Society pointed out that these proposals would help combat health inequities in the nation, as tobacco stores were four times more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods, where smoking rates are highest.

Not Without Flaws

The proposals weren’t completely without controversy. There are concerns that a complete ban could bankrupt “dairy” store owners (the equivalent to a U.S. convenience store) who rely on tobacco sales to stay afloat. 

There are also concerns that prohibition largely doesn’t work, as has been seen in other nations with goods such as alcohol or marijuana. Many believe a  blanket ban on tobacco will increase the incentive to smuggle and sell the products on the black market. The government even acknowledged the issue in a document outlining Thursday’s proposals. 

“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” the document said.

Some are also concerned about how much the government is intervening in people’s lives.

“There’s a philosophical principle about adults being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason,” journalist Alex Braae wrote. 

The opposition ACT party also added that lowering nicotine content in tobacco products could lead to smokers smoking more, a particular concern as one-in-four cancer cases in New Zealand are tobacco-related.

See what others are saying: (Stuff) (Independent) (The Guardian)

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Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion

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  • Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
  • The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
  • The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.

Ever Given Still in Egypt

An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.

The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.

The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.

Pushing Back Against The Claim

While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”

“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”

It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.

See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)

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Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean

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  • The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
  • The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
  • Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
  • Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Radioactive or Bad Publicity?

After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”

While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.

According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.

Something Had To Eventually Be Done

Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.

The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.

The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.

Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.

“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.

To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (KBS World) (NBC News)

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