Still #BoycottMulan? Liu Yifei Might Be a Victim of Forced Propaganda by the Chinese Government

China might be forcing stars like Mulan's Liu Yifei to spread anti-protester propaganda.

Mulan's official trailer dropped. Meanwhile, pro-democracy protesters persist in their fight for freedom in the face of violence from Hong Kong police.

Remember the controversy surrounding actress Liu Yifei (a.k.a. Crystal Liu), star of Disney's upcoming live-action Mulan, when she posted anti-protester sentiment on social media? While anger at the star's anti-democracy stance might seem natural, it's very possible that Liu is also a victim of the Chinese government.

liu yifei weibo

In August, Liu shared an image on Weibo (China's Twitter-like platform––Twitter is blocked in China) that translates to "I support Hong Kong's police, you can beat me up now." These are words of Fu Guohao, a mainland Chinese journalist who was roughed up by protestors after being caught taking close-up pictures of them at the Hong Kong airport and refusing to show his press credentials (the details here are scant as much of the information available is Chinese propaganda). Upon returning to China, he has been deemed a hero, and his words have become a rallying cry against pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters.

Liu's post, which was originally printed in China's state-backed People's Daily, concluded: "What a shame for Hong Kong." Liu added the hashtag "IAlsoSupportTheHongKongPolice" alongside a heart emoji and a bicep flex.

The backlash against Liu was immediate, with #BoycottMulan trending in both Hong Kong and the US on Twitter. She's been globally criticized for supporting a police force that is currently being accused of human rights violations against protesters by the UN.

"Disney's Mulan actress, Liu Yifei, supports police brutality and oppression in Hong Kong. Liu is a naturalized American citizen. it must be nice. meanwhile she pisses on people fighting for democracy," wrote Twitter user Sean Norton.

But while Liu's post certainly is not a good look for a Western movie star, disturbing evidence suggests that her sentiments might not be entirely her own.

In fact, around the same time, a ton of other Chinese celebrities shared roughly the same sentiment, with startling uniformity: the same "What a shame for Hong Kong" picture (or, alternatively, the Chinese Five-starred Red Flag), the same "IAlsoSupportTheHongKongPolice" hashtag, and very little else.

chinese celebrity propaganda

Some internationally known Chinese celebrities, like singer Lay Zhang, posted the same thing on Twitter:

What's stranger is that none of these celebrities seem particularly well-known for their political activism.

Then, in another instance, many other accounts shared the same exact message as China Central Television: "Hong Kong is part of China forever," followed by the Chinese Flag emoji.

Isn't it strange to see so many influential Chinese social media accounts essentially copying and pasting the same messages in coordination? Moreover, the comment sections for all of these posts (including Lay Zhang's tweet) are full of people supporting mainland China and the Hong Kong police against pro-democracy protesters. This anti-democracy sentiment seems especially weird on Twitter, considering, again, most of the Chinese people who hold these sentiments wouldn't typically have access to the platform.

This isn't to say that Liu Yifei doesn't actually support the Hong Kong police, nor mainland China's claim to ownership of Hong Kong. She very well might. But the possibility also exists that the Chinese government is forcibly using influential Chinese celebrities as mouthpieces for political purposes.

This is not unprecedented in China. There, celebrities' careers are explicitly tied to whether or not they hold favor with the ruling party. This was proven when they "disappeared" their most famous and successful actress, Fan Bingbing, over supposed tax evasion charges. Some, however, suspect her disappearance had everything to do with her growing international influence. She quietly returned months later, oddly sharing a pro-China Communist Youth League post in response to a director who supported Taiwan's autonomy.

"China cannot miss out on any inch," shared Fan.

fan bingbing propaganda

Moreover, even a naturalized American citizen like Liu isn't necessarily safe. The Chinese government has a tendency to use family members still living in mainland China to silence and control expats who might prove problematic. Such was the case for Anastasia Lin, a China-born Canadian beauty queen who spoke out about human-rights abuses in China, only for herself and her family to become targets of the Chinese government's wrath.

"My father sent me a text message saying that they have contacted him telling him that if I continue to speak up, my family would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution. My father's generation grew up in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, so for him it's the biggest threat you can make. It means you die, you get publicly persecuted," said Lin.

With a government like the Communist Party of China, which has unprecedented control over its people, it's hard to say what celebrity political endorsements are genuine and which are forced propaganda. While it may be a combination of the two, as seems to be the case with Hong Kong-born action-star Jackie Chan, who now goes above and beyond as a pro-China advocate, one can never really know for sure. When "freedom" is removed from the equation and the safety of someone's family hangs in the balance, it's impossible to distinguish which Chinese celebrities are patriots and which are victims.

Larry Kramer, AIDS activist and artist, passed away today at 84.

Kramer was known for his books Faggots and The American People, as well as climate-changing plays like The Normal Heart. His close friend and literary executor, William Schwalbe, told CNN that Kramer died of pneumonia."Larry made a huge contribution to our world as an activist but also as a writer," said Schwalbe, who had known Kramer for 57 years. "I believe that his plays and novels, from 'The Normal Heart' to 'The American People' will more than stand the test of time."

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Film Lists

Please Enjoy This List of Actors Insulting Their Own Movies

Every actor hates himself a little for their career missteps—except Bill Murray. Bill Murray is too perfect for mistakes.

All actors have taken movie roles they wish to bury like embarrassing middle school yearbooks.

With major movie studios boycotting ingenuity and flooding 2019 with more remakes and reboots than ever before, actors were looking over their resumes in trepidation that their most regrettable roles will be brought into the limelight again. Their reasons span from not reading the script beforehand to being too drunk to film, but every actor hates himself a little for their career missteps. Here are seven actors who insulted their own movies:

1. Jackie Chan - Rush Hour (1998)

Jackie Chan originally regretted Rush Hour.YouTube

When Jackie Chan first saw the script for Rush Hour, he said, "No, I don't like it." After he saw the film, he told his manager, "Terrible movie. They don't allow me to do my own style. The English, I'm not good. Chris Tucker's English, I don't understand. Terrible movie!" At the time, he was still trying to break into American cinema, believing, "Nobody knows who this little Chinese guy is, he speaks no English," as he told Yahoo's Role Recall. Now, as a bona fide action movie icon, Jackie Chan just wants to know when Rush Hour 4 is going to happen.

2. Sally Field - The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Sally Field unhappy she took the part in the Amazing Spider-Man movies.Hollywood Reporter

The Amazing Spider-Man films of 2012 and 2014 (prior to the fan favorite cinnamon roll, Tom Holland) are testaments to why you should never do people favors. Sally Field, who played Peter Parker's Aunt May, told Howard Stern that she only accepted the role as a favor to her friend and the film's producer, Laura Ziskin. Field said, "It's really hard to find a three-dimensional character in it, and you work it as much as you can, but you can't put ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag."

3. Bill Murray - Garfield (2004)

This is what CGI looked like in 2004Slash Film

To be clear, Bill Murray doesn't hate Garfield, the beloved comic strip character; he hated being in Garfield, the 2004 bomb and Golden Schmoes contender for "Worst Movie of the Year" (and he was in the sequel). As he told The Today Show, "I did the Garfield movies, which were just like one crazier than the next... And I didn't really read the script." He only saw the script was written by Joel Cohen and assumed it was one of the acclaimed Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski). He recalls, "I'm looking, I go Joel Coen, one of my favorites, I mean the Coen brothers? These guys make great movies. Well, it wasn't that Joel Coen, it was a different Joel Cohen." Rather than modern classics like No Country for Old Men and True Grit, Joel Cohen wrote Cheaper by the Dozen, which is a movie that exists because Steve Martin was bored in 2003.

4. Jared Leto - Suicide Squad (2016)

Jared Leto may have sent cast members dead rodents. Look at him.Wired

One thing we all have in common with Jared Leto is that we hate his version of the Joker in Suicide Squad. But while we wished his portrayal as a meth-head Ronald McDonald had less screen time, he thought there should've been more. When Variety asked if he was disappointed that many of his scenes were cut from the film, he snapped back, "Were there any that didn't get cut? I'm asking you, were there any that didn't get cut? There were so many scenes that got cut from the movie, I couldn't even start. I think that the Joker… we did a lot of experimentation on the set, we explored a lot. There's so much that we shot that's not in the film." Many secondhand reports say Leto vented that he felt "tricked into being a part of something that had been pitched to him very differently." When it comes to Warner Bros., his stance is clear: "F*ck 'em."

5. Michelle Pfeiffer - Grease 2 (1978)

Michelle Pfeiffer regrets Grease 2 Michelle Pfeiffer regrets Grease 2 but still humble-brags about it.Like Totally 80s

Apparently Grease was given a sequel, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and who knows who else. While Grease 2 was critically panned at the time, the A-list actress is harsher than her critics were: "I hated that film with a vengeance and could not believe how bad it was. At the time I was young and didn't know any better." She added, "I hear it's a cult movie now." Indeed, according to the still active Grease 2 "ultimate fansite" and Twitter account, Pfeiffer's terrible movie is "the coolest movie musical ever."

6. Mark Wahlberg - Boogie Nights (1997)

Mark Wahlberg regrets boogie nights A Catholic Cardinal peer-pressured Mark Wahlberg to pan Boogie Nights.EW

Twenty years after the film's release, Wahlberg bowed to his Catholic upbringing when he appeared at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago alongside Cardinal Blasé Cupic, commenting, "I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I've made some poor choices in my past. 'Boogie Nights' is up there at the top of the list." Later on, Wahlberg tried to pull back from the statement, telling People, "I was sitting in front of a couple of thousand kids talking about and trying to encourage them to come back to their faith…" But considering Boogie Nights launched Marky Mark's film career, such a blanket dismissal takes balls.

7. Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

Look closely: Is Daniel Radcliffe dead behind the eyes? in Harry Potter Fanpop

It turns out Harry Potter was often wasted. Daniel Radcliffe has been open about abusing alcohol to cope with the pressures of fame and carrying the $25 billion franchise. While he swears he never drank on set, he admits to filming while very much inebriated, "I can point to many scenes where I'm just gone. Dead behind the eyes." Now that he's overcome the self-destructive habit and we know that Harry Potter is well and good, one of the best reasons to rewatch all of the series' films is to try to detect which drunken scenes Radcliffe doesn't want to identify. He's given a few clues, though, saying in a separate interview, "And that's why it's hard to watch a film like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Because I'm just not very good in it. I hate it. My acting is very one-note and I can see I got complacent and what I was trying to do just didn't come across."