By Tyler Aquilina
September 12, 2020 at 02:38 PM EDT
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A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek on Friday, addressing renewed controversy over the studio's live-action remake of Mulan. The letter urged Chapek to clarify the Chinese government's involvement in the film's production, and the degree to which Disney was aware of reported human rights violations in regions where filming took place.

After Mulan was made available on Disney+ last week, some viewers noticed that the credits included thanks to several government entities in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China. Since 2018, reports have indicated that the Chinese government has detained Uighur Muslims in mass internment camps in the region and subjected them to torture and other abuses. Experts have characterized China's actions as "cultural genocide."

While pre-production on Mulan began before news of the camps emerged, the story was widespread by the time filming commenced in August 2018. The news stirred a new wave of controversy over the film, with many social media users calling for a boycott.

"Disney's apparent cooperation with officials of the People's Republic of China (PRC) who are most responsible for committing atrocities — or for covering up those crimes — is profoundly disturbing," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Chapek (which can be read in full on Twitter). The letter urged the Disney CEO to provide a detailed explanation of the studio's association and cooperation with the Chinese government.

Representatives for Disney did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.

According to The New York Times, Disney CFO Christine M. McCarthy spoke briefly about the controversy at a Bank of America conference on Thursday, explaining that Mulan shot Chinese scenery “to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography for this historic period drama." (Most of the film was shot in New Zealand; the footage filmed in Xinjiang apparently consists entirely of landscape shots.) McCarthy also "noted that it was common practice in Hollywood to credit government entities that allowed filming to take place," per the Times.

This is not the first time Mulan has stirred political controversy. Social media users first called for a boycott after star Yifei Liu shared a social media post in support of the Hong Kong police force, which has been scrutinized for alleged brutality against pro-democracy protesters. Speaking to EW about the controversy, Liu said, “It’s obviously a very complicated situation, and I’m not an expert. I hope this all gets resolved soon.”

Mulan was released in China on Friday, grossing less than expected over its first two days in theaters. The degree to which the controversy has impacted its earnings is unclear, as piracy is also reportedly a factor.

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Mulan (2020 movie)

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