The Harvard International Review (HIR) published a scathing article accusing Walt Disney Company of being “in China’s pocket” as the communist nation continues committing human rights atrocities against Uyghur minorities in its Xinjiang region.
Written in October 2021 by Lexa Brenner, the incoming Editor-in-Chief for the HIR at the time, the article highlights Disney’s live action adaptation of its beloved animated classic “Mulan,” which tells the tale of a young woman in imperial China who bravely takes her aging father’s place in the army.
While the animated film was widely praised, Brenner claims that the reproduction’s “charm ends at the credits.”
“At the very end of the film credits, Disney thanks eight government entities in Xinjiang, the far western Chinese region home to 12 million Uyghur Muslims. The named parties include the security bureau in Turpan, eastern Xinjiang, and the ‘Publicity Department of CPC (Communist Party of China) Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee,’” the article states.
Brenner went on to note the growing consensus that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, including genocide against the Uyghurs.
“Locations used for Mulan’s shooting are believed to host modern-day concentration camps,” Brenner added.
While leaders of the CCP have repeatedly denied the allegations, Uyghur exiles have described the atrocities being committed against them, including forced abortions, killings, torture, rape, enslavement, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, labor, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural and religious heritage, persecution, forced marriages, and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households.
Earlier this year, more than 40 Western-led countries criticized China’s widely reported human rights violations against the Uyghurs in a statement issued at the United Nations. The group called on Beijing to immediately allow independent observers into the Xinjiang region.
“While the Mulan remake brought many unwanted accusations of Disney being complicit in CCP genocidal efforts, it also brought to light a deeper, more pervasive Chinese government influence within the American film industry,” Brenner continued. “Behind closed doors, Disney, and indeed all of Hollywood, have been self-censoring plots, characters, and dialogues for decades to appease the Chinese Communist Party.”
The HIR article accused Disney of resisting censorship in the United States, but being unwilling “to hold to the same standards for its Chinese equivalent.”
Brenner asserted that Disney’s censorship abroad goes beyond compromising creativity and crippling the freedom of speech — in China’s case, she suggests, it helps to facilitate genocide.
“While ‘slippery slope’ thinking may most often be employed for invalid fear-mongering, in this case, we could be looking at an industry shift that overtly ignores, and by default condones, genocide,” Brenner wrote. “The day is coming where Disney and Hollywood at large are going to have to make hard choices between profit and production—or risk Mickey Mouse becoming nothing more than a big-eared mouthpiece.”