Dismal China sales portend disaster for Mulan amid criticism over Xinjiang

Dismal China sales portend disaster for Mulan amid criticism over Xinjiang

Hit with bad reviews and accusations of complicity in China’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities, Mulan is getting no respite ahead of its opening in Chinese theaters.

Disney’s live-action remake has racked up dismal advance ticket sales for its opening day in China on Friday, according to China’s largest film ticketing app Maoyan.

As of Wednesday morning, the sales amounted to $307,000 after three days’ presale, a fraction of those of recent hit movies in the country. Love You Forever, a time-traveling romance, took in $20 million in advance tickets before it opened in August.

Mulan has faced a fresh storm of criticism since its September 4 release in the US after it was found to be partly filmed in China’s Xinjiang region, where the Chinese authorities’ treatment of Muslim minorities has drawn global condemnation by governments and human rights watchdogs.Mulan will be released in Chinese cinemas on Sept. 11.

Viewers have spotted in Mulan’s credits that Disney expressed “special thanks” to Xinjiang authorities that were accused of abuses against ethnic minorities in the far-western region, including the internment of at least hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Uygurs and alleged forced labor.

Critics have cited the film’s Xinjiang link as an example that the American film industry, in trying to tap China’s huge market of consumers, is complicit in Beijing’s censorship and other rights abuses.

Among those Mulan acknowledges in the credit roll is the Communist Party’s propaganda department in Xinjiang and the public security bureau in Turpan, an ancient Silk Road city where Uygurs have been detained.

The Turpan public security bureau was blacklisted by the US government in October 2019 for its involvement in “human rights violations and abuses,” meaning American companies need to apply for a license before exporting certain technologies to the entity. 

The Trump administration is expected to announce a ban this week on the imports of all textiles using Xinjiang cotton on the grounds that they were made with forced labor. The full scope of the potential order remains unknown. 

Mulan was filmed in 2018 and it is unclear how much of the film was shot in Xinjiang. In 2017, its director Niki Caro posted a photo from the desert in Xinjiang on Instagram while scouting a location for the film.