Twitter users on Friday hit out at Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei using the hashtag #BoycottMulan after she retweeted a slogan from ruling Chinese Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily in support of Hong Kong's police force.
Liu retweeted a post from the paper's official account hailing party-backed Global Times reporter Fu Guohao as a "hero" after he was beaten and tied up during the occupation of Hong Kong's airport by anti-extradition protesters on Tuesday.
Liu plays the eponymous and upstanding heroine of Disney's forthcoming live-action movie Mulan.
Critics are now calling for a boycott of the film over her post supporting the Hong Kong police, who have been the target of international criticism for their excessive use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other non-lethal weaponry against protesters in a manner that has repeatedly departed from international norms.
Liu originally shared the People's Daily post on China's Sina Weibo platform, where she is followed by 65.6 million accounts.
The paper had earlier published an emotive graphic of a bound Fu, along with the words he reportedly told protesters: "I support the Hong Kong police: you can beat me up now." Liu added a hashtag in Chinese, that read "I also support Hong Kong police."
United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet this week voiced concern about the use of force by police in Hong Kong, and also called for an independent inquiry in such allegations, in line with one of the key demands of the anti-extradition movement.
"That movie is now dead worldwide," wrote Twitter account @HKWORLDCITY. "Box office bomb on the way. #BoycottMulan"
Twitter user @mariconpayte replied: "I was an eager fan of Mulan, girl power, fighting for oppression, tyranny and rights for her people. But I was so disappointed, heart got broken so now I'm yelling to all my friends #BoycottMulan @Disney"
"Sorry mulan looks like the hun defeated you this time," quipped @mrREsguerra20 in response.
Mulan is scheduled for theatrical release in March 2020.
Statement not surprising
Independent Chinese PEN member and poet Bei Ling said Liu's tweet had been particularly jarring given the role she portrays in the film, but not surprising in the Chinese political context.
"These cultural celebrities are in actual fact businesspeople, and the market will remove the last shred of conscience from anyone," Bei said. "There is a huge contrast between them and the small number of artists of conscience in Hong Kong, such as [vocal protest supporter] Denise Ho."
"A lot of artists still had a conscience back in 1989, and spoke out in support of the pro-democracy movement [in China], but today, they have sold out their consciences for the lure of the Chinese market."
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the Hong Kong protests have become something of a taboo topic in mainland China right now.
"These celebrities are falling over themselves to show how loyal they are ... but they're not totally free to act or immune from fear either," Hu said.
"If Liu Yifei hadn't made this statement of loyalty to the Communist Party at this point, that would be tantamount to the death of her career as an artist."
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.