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Marco Rubio to Disney: Xinjiang? Seriously?

Letter ponders whether Disney’s Mulan production provides ‘tacit legitimacy’ to crimes against humanity.

Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and a bipartisan group in Congress are demanding Walt Disney Co. explain why and how it filmed its new movie “Mulan” in a region of China reported for human rights abuses bordering on genocide.

“Disney’s apparent cooperation with officials of the People’s Republic of China who are most responsible for committing atrocities — or for covering up those crimes — is profoundly disturbing,” their letter declares.

Rubio, Scott, and 17 other members of the Senate and House sent the letter Friday to Walt Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek. They want him to provide information about the company’s cooperation with Chinese security and propaganda authorities to film parts of “Mulan” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Earlier this year, Rubio, Scott and 73 other members of the Senate and the House wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin urging them to issue a formal determination of “the atrocity crimes, including crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the region.”

Rubio has been decrying China’s actions in Xinjang for a long time. Scott also has condemned those actions.

The live action movie “Mulan,” an adaptation of the 1998 animated movie of the same name, debuted earlier this month, streaming on Disney+.

According to the congressional letter, the closing credits of “Mulan” extend thanks to the “Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security” and the “Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee” as well as other local level XUAR propaganda elements.

“The XUAR Publicity (or Propaganda) Department — which is an arm of the Chinese Communist Party — has denied, distorted, and otherwise covered up these crimes against humanity that also include forced labor and a campaign of mass sterilization, forced abortions, and birth suppression against Uyghurs,” the congressional letter declares.

“Publicly available information prior to the filming of ‘Mulan’ showed the existence of mass internment camps for the detention of Uyghurs,” the letter continues. “By July 1, 2018, major news outlets in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong all had reported that Beijing had interned hundreds of thousands, if not more than one million, Uyghurs and minorities in the XUAR. The decision to film parts of Mulan in the XUAR, in cooperation with local security and propaganda elements, offers tacit legitimacy to these perpetrators of crimes that may warrant the designation of genocide.”

The congressional letter demands answers to a series of questions about what Disney executives knew and when they knew it; what the company’s contracts with China called for in production of the movie; what sort of local labor was used in production; whether the company was forced to establish a communist party committee or branch for its Chinese employees on the picture; what sorts of human rights policies the company has; and whether there is anywhere in the world that Disney would refuse to work because of human rights abuses.

“The Walt Disney Company’s website states, ‘We believe social responsibility is a longterm investment that serves to strengthen our operations and competitiveness in the marketplace, enhance risk management, attract and engage talented employees, and maintain our reputation.’ We seek to fully understand how you implement this commitment in the activities you undertake in China,” the letter concludes.

Joining Rubio and Scott in sending the letter were Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ben Sasse of of Nebraska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Masha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia; Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Republican Reps. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Liz Cheney of Wyoming; and Democratic Reps. James McGovern of Massachusetts, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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