Mulan star Liu Yifei sparks boycott calls amid support of Hong Kong police

The star of Disney’s upcoming Mulan has become the latest entertainer to wade into the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, drawing praise from some while others call for a boycott of her anticipated live-action remake. 

As continuing protests by pro-democracy and anti-police brutality demonstrators in Hong Kong approach an 11th week, Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei (also known as Crystal Liu) entered the fray by voicing her support of the city’s police force via social media. 

In a post to her more than 65 million followers on Weibo, a massively popular and Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, Liu retweeted a post and image initially shared by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Her post recirculates the statement “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now,” which is attributed to a reporter for a state-run newspaper, who was allegedly bound and punched by demonstrators during violent clashes at Hong Kong International Airport earlier this week.

Liu shot to international fame in 2017 when she was cast as Fa Mulan in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake. (Stephen Tilley/Disney Enterprises)

The post received more than 80,000 likes, was shared more than 70,000 times and drew supportive comments from many in China since it was posted Wednesday evening.  

However, supporters of the Hong Kong protesters and many outside China have blasted the performer for siding with the police force, whose officers have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged restraint, saying in a statement this week that it has “reviewed credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards.” 

The wave of condemnation arose soon after Liu’s Weibo post, with the hashtag #BoycottMulan proliferating across Twitter and Instagram, including through comments left on the actor’s page. Others have also left critical comments on Disney’s official Mulan social media accounts.

Meanwhile, some social media users have suggested her post may have been influenced by the Chinese government, which has in the past blacklisted performers, and cautioned against too quickly drawing conclusions about the Chinese-born actor.

Liu became a U.S. citizen when her family moved there during her preteen years. She subsequently returned to China to pursue a career as a performer and graduated from the Beijing Film Academy.

Action star Jackie Chan is another prominent Chinese celebrity who has expressed a stance in favour of the police and of the Beijing government, while actor-singers Deanie Ip and Denise Ho are among those who have supported and taken part in the demonstrations (and since seen their careers blocked in mainland China). 

The latest Hong Kong protests started in June when the city’s government put forward an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be sent to China for trial. Though the controversial bill was suspended, the protests have continued with increasing intensity through the summer.

Following more than 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 as one of several of the country’s Special Administrative Regions. The city, a major Asian commercial hub, was promised a certain autonomy through measures such as an independent legislative and legal system. However, many in the city say Beijing has tightened its grip over Hong Kong in recent years. 

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