Considering how few students bother to keep up with American politics, I wasn’t sure how aware they would be of major, hot-topic issues in Asia. After all, looking at social media it seems like this generation’s general focus is on domestic movements such as Black Lives Matter.
While absolutely justified, I was still disappointed in how little support there was for such pressing matters as the Xinjiang Uighur camps, and equated this with a lack of awareness for this issue among our generation as a whole.
However, upon talking to students about “Mulan” and its connections to the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, I learned just how mistaken I was in these assumptions.
Two students shared thought-provoking responses that, although portions of them didn’t make it to the final published article in September’s Bull’s Eye, merit discussion.
Senior Iris Lee had this to say:
“What Disney did with ‘Mulan’ is just an attempt for people to ignore the ongoing problems in China. The protests for autonomy in Hong Kong have been going on for over a year now and seem to get more violent. There is ongoing ethnic cleansing in ethnic minorities. Uyghur women are forced to have abortions and sterilizations. Inner Mongolians are being forced to give up Mongolian and speak Mandarin all because of the CCP’s agenda to create a Chinese society under the Communist Party.
“These are just a few of the ongoing issues in China and very few people know about it. By sympathizing with China as Disney did, they are covering up these voices and issues. This is a matter of human rights and preserving culture. ‘Mulan’ did absolutely nothing in spreading ‘Chinese culture.’ It is all so ironic when China is just actively erasing culture.”
2020 alumna Venira Asker offered these thoughts:
“My initial reaction after hearing about the controversies surrounding ‘Mulan’ was shock and disgust. Growing up, Disney really was a big inspiration to me. Since I had always dreamed about becoming an animator/artist, Disney was something that I always looked to for inspiration. But upon hearing that the actress in ‘Mulan’ was against HK’s independence etc, and especially after hearing that they shot the movie in Xinjiang where millions of Uyghurs are being taken into concentration camps … I was undoubtedly the most angry I’ve ever felt towards a company and their actions. I think it is extremely important that people are made aware of what is happening to Uyghurs in Xinjiang because it’s one of the worst human rights abuses that has ever happened in the world.
“Humanity was absolutely disgusted by the actions of Hitler during the Holocaust and how he put countless innocent people into camps. It’s appalling to me that this is happening in today’s world, but no one seems to be really caring. Just to give a small analogy of why Disney filming in Xinjiang is so atrocious, imagine that during the Holocaust while people were being gassed and put into camps, that Disney shot a movie right next to a concentration camp like Auschwitz. Disgusting right? No one would watch that movie, and there would be protests against Disney and everyone involved. This is the same thing.”
Asker’s testimonial was especially impactful; there are few Asian Americans of Uighur descent, so hearing her talk so passionately about her own culture made the situation hit closer to home, feeling more real and more pressing. Being able to put a name to the cause demonstrated how the Xinjiang situation affects not just people on another continent, or somewhere else in the U.S., or even California–it’s hurting people here in this school. The more I talked with friends and peers about “Mulan’s” implications, the more I saw that people were alarmed by China’s mounting human rights violations.
While there was definitely activity on Instagram and Facebook rebuking the Xinjiang “re-education camps” it wasn’t comparable to other recent movements that seemed to gain more momentum. Going through this process, however, made me realize internet activism doesn’t truly reflect our collective understanding and attention.
True impact is only made when people take the time to educate themselves on important issues, come to their own conclusions and make their voice heard. So put yourself out there; don’t be shy. Your peers may know more than you’d think, and having these kinds of discussions allows us to be better informed and prepared to take action.