Disney’s loaded feature film presentation Saturday at the D23 Expo in Anaheim included a program loaded with stars and directors promoted the studio’s upcoming slate, from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to The Eternals (and newcomer Kit Harington) and Pixar’s Soul (and newly announced voice cast including Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey).
One major exception: Disney’s Mulan. Only director Niki Caro came onstage for the presentation of the pic, notable as the film’s star, Yifei Liu, has been the subject of controversy the past week for comments she made on social media about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
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— Walt Disney Studios (@DisneyStudios) August 24, 2019
Last week, Chinese-born Liu said on blogging site Weibo that she stands with the Hong Kong police, who since June have been engaged in a crackdown on anti-government demonstrators and journalists in that country. The civil unrest and protests, triggered by potential legislation that would have allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to territories where Hong Kong doesn’t have formal extradition deals but has now grown to encompass democratic reform, are now in their third month.
“I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong. #Ialsosupporthongkongpolice#,” she wrote.
The political stance has put Disney in the middle of a global human rights maelstrom. RelishMix reported that on August 16, the day she made the comments, that the Twitter hashtag #BoycottMulan spiked to a global 75,000 mentions. It’s unclear whether all of this will impact the film, which hits theaters on March 27, 2020; Mulan has not been dated yet in China or Hong Kong.
Disney did not respond to a request for comment Saturday about why Liu did not attend the D23 presentation.
Sources say it’s not unusual for a young Chinese-born actress like Liu to be patriotic. While she was called out on Twitter for being a naturalized American citizen, her acting and modeling career was launched in China. Sources have told Deadline that had she expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters, it would have created larger complications for Mulan and Disney’s business in the territory.