When popular Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow was arrested earlier this week in an attack on free speech by the Chinese government, she quickly inspired a “Mulan” meme by fans on Twitter. The social media blitz surrounding Chow and “Mulan” coincides with the upcoming Disney+ (and in some places, theatrical) release of Disney’s live-action remake of the 1998 animated film and a reimagining of Chinese folklore. The character of Mulan has long been emblematic of female heroism in China, a claim that many of Chow’s supporters now say belongs to her.
The arrest, which was part of a crackdown on pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong as part of China’s controversial new security law, also resurfaced comments made last August by live-action “Mulan” star Liu Yifei. She was quoted as saying “I support the Hong Kong police, you all can beat me up now” in response to Hong Kong’s excessive force in handling protesters. While Chinese citizens offered support for Liu Yifei, pro-democracy fighters began calling for a boycott — a plea now reignited by Chow’s arrest.
Chow, who was among 10 people arrested on Monday, was released on bail and has not received any formal charges. “Of the four times I’ve been arrested, this is the most terrifying,” she wrote on social media after the arrest.
The “Mulan” memes shared on Twitter seek to elevate Chow as a folk heroine on the level of the Disney icon, while denouncing Yifei for her political views. Yifei’s response to police assaults birthed the hashtag #BoycottMulan, though the movie remains one of the most highly anticipated (and delayed) releases of the year. That hashtag is now resurfacing on social media. “#LiuYifei is a selfish #CCP shill who supports #PoliceBrutality in #HongKong,” one user wrote on Twitter. “#AgnesChow has given everything to #FightForFreedom and defend her people.”
“Which is the real #mulan?” another user wrote. “A freedom fighter Agnes Chow or a [sic] authoritarian regime supporter.”
“Mulan” has been approved to be released in China. The film, which has already been delayed four times, is set to open in select markets on September 4 alongside its streaming premiere. The $200-million will be available on Disney+ for the premium price of $29.99.
The New York Times first rounded up the tweets, a few of which are below.
So who is really loyal brave and true?
— James Lee Proudfoot🎗 (@PhilosophyNook) August 11, 2020
— emiemi (@eforemi) August 11, 2020
— Denise Ho (HOCC) (@hoccgoomusic) August 11, 2020
I urge you all to boycott the new #Mulan coming to #DisneyPlus soon. Mulan has forever been my FAVORITE Disney tale; yet the actress portraying the brave Chinese princess (#LiuYifei) supports the suppression of #HongKong. My REAL MULAN is @chowtingagnes! https://t.co/VT8ur3FXgX
— Kiley Allen (@kileyqallen) August 12, 2020
— Hola (@Holaholamicasa) August 11, 2020