Jewher Ilham has not seen her father since 2013 — when the Chinese Communist government arrested him before he could board a plane to Indiana and "disappeared" him.
Now Ilham, a member of the Chinese Uighur people, is calling out Disney for playing footsie with China's oppressive government in order to gain access to the nation to film its newest movie, "Mulan" and screen the movie in the nation's theaters.
What did she say?
Disney has come under fire for filming "Mulan" in the Chinese province where Uighur Muslims are being held in concentration camps and then using the movie's credits to thank the agency that runs the camps for its help.
In an op-ed titled "The Chinese Government Locked Up My Uighur Father. Disney's 'Mulan' Is a Disgrace" for the Daily Beast on Thursday, Ilham, who currently serves as the Uighur Human Rights Fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., explained that her father — a "mild-mannered, studious professor of economics" whose "life's work was using his influence to promote peaceful coexistence between the Uighur people ... and the Han ethnic majority that rules China" — was arrested by the Communist government in 2013 just before he was to get on a plane to the U.S. for an Indiana University Fellowship.
His efforts at "peaceful coexistence," she said, ran counter to the interests of the Chinese government, and he was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison.
She has not heard from her father since the day before his arrest and has heard nothing of his whereabouts since 2017.
So naturally, Ilham is not impressed with Disney's cozy relationship with the very people who have reportedly put some 1 million ethnic minorities in concentration camps while using an ancient Chinese legend to make millions of dollars:
In many ways, I can identify with the title character in Disney's Mulan films, based on the ancient Chinese legend. In the story, as China calls up the men from every family to defend against a foreign invasion, Mulan dresses as a boy and fights in the place of her father, who is too old to go himself. As a child growing up in Beijing, I loved the legend and the fun Disney cartoon version produced in 1998. Little did I know that I, like Mulan, would later be fighting for my own father—helping to carry on his work while he is unjustly imprisoned. I hope, like her, to achieve victory by one day gaining my father's release.
Today, sadly, a new retelling of the Mulan story, once again by Disney, is profiting from the oppression of my people. This live-action version was filmed partly in the Uighur region—officially known in China as “Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region"—where the Chinese Communist government is holding at least one million members of Turkic ethnic minorities in concentration camps as part of a coordinated genocidal campaign. My father, if he is alive, may be among them—nobody will allow us to visit him, or even tell us where he is.
Despite widespread international condemnation of China's brutal tactics in Xinjiang, Disney still chose to go there to film this movie, delivering money and the prestige of an international “family" brand to those directly engaged in genocide. Adding insult to injury, in the closing credits, they even made sure to thank the local government “bureau of public security" (also known as state police) and “publicity department" (or propaganda). These are the very same government agencies in the Uighur region that are imprisoning Uighurs and other Turkic minorities, and then telling their families and the international press they are merely being held in “training centers." The “public security" office is currently under sanctions by the U.S. government for human rights abuses.
Ilham noted that the government have been oppressing the Uighur people since at least the 1950s and have become more aggressive about it.
She's calling on the world to boycott 'Mulan'
Sadly, she said, the West has become increasingly complicit in the government's "cultural genocide" — especially major multinational corporations like Nike, Apple and Gap that rely on China's use of political prisoners for forced labor.
Hollywood, she stated, is as guilty as those other companies about getting suckered into doing business with and cozying up to China. And now she's calling on the world to boycott "Mulan":
Hollywood isn't immune from the charms of Beijing either. The promise of access to the massive Chinese market is irresistible for a movie industry desperate for revenue in the COVID era when movie ticket sales are down. While many theaters in the United States remain shut down, Mulan will be opening in Chinese theaters.
It appears, sadly, that Disney is the latest in the long and disappointing line of Western people and companies taken advantage of by China. We can hope, at least, that the outcry against Disney on behalf of the Uighurs and freedom-loving people everywhere will not only lead others to #BoycottMulan in the short term, but in the long term demand that Western companies cease cooperating with Chinese oppression.
Ilham concluded by saying she hopes this exposure will rally nations around the globe to stop letting China's Communist government get away with its myriad abuses.
This story has been updated.