China reportedly bars media coverage of Disney's 'Mulan' after Xinjiang backlash

  • Controversy erupted after it was revealed the movie was partly filmed in the region and producers thanked local authorities in the credits
  • The Chinese government has clamped down on the area's ethnic Uygur population
Reuters |

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The live-action 'Mulan' previously faced backlash for the star's pro-Hong Kong police tweets during the city's year-long protest movement. Photo: Reuters

It has been reported that Chinese authorities have told major media outlets not to cover the release of Disney's live-action remake of Mulan after controversy erupted overseas over the film's links with the Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities have been clamping down on the region's ethnic Muslim population.

Set to open in local theatres on Friday, Disney had high hopes for Mulan in China, but starving it of publicity in the country’s strictly censored media would be another blow to the movie's costly production.

Starring big-name Chinese-born actors - Jet Li, Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Liu Yifei - and based on a Chinese folk story, Mulan was tailored to appeal to audiences in China, the world’s second-largest movie market.

But mixed reviews online and capacity limits in theatres due to coronavirus prevention measures were likely to weigh on its box office performance, even before major media outlets received a notice telling them to refrain from covering the movie.

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Three sources told Reuters that media outlets had received the notice, two of whom said it was sent by the Cyberspace Administration of China. A fourth source at a major Chinese newspaper said he received a text message with a similar order from a senior colleague.

No reason was given in the notice, but the sources said they believed it was because of the overseas backlash over the film’s links to Xinjiang. Partly shot in the region, Mulan's credits include thanks to the authorities there, which prompted calls overseas for a boycott of the movie.

Neither the Cyberspace Administration or Disney immediately responded to requests for comment.

On Wednesday, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, criticised the backlash against the movie in an editorial in its English edition, describing it as “another manifestation of the extreme ideologies regarding China among US public opinion.”