- 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)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)
Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished
The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Settlers Get Ready to Move in
On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.
“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.
The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.
The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.
In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”
“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.
Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land
On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.
Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.
The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”