Creative workers overseas have hit out at Hollywood over what they say is the movie industry’s long-running failure to stand up to China over human rights abuses, which include the mass incarceration and persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.Following Disney’s release last month of the live-action remake of Mulan, the media empire sparked an international outcry after it thanked Xinjiang branches of China’s feared state security police, who are closely linked with a network of internment camps, a program of cultural genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups, and the regionwide monitoring, harassment, and surveillance of residents.U.K.-based writer Ma Jian said Disney’s unapologetic use of locations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) just a few miles away from incarceration camps was a scandal, and showed that Disney was only too happy to collude with China’s repressive regime.“It’s truly disgusting that China built concentration camps and that the Disney production team just passed close by and even thanks [the authorities],” Ma told RFA. “All those people had lost their liberty, locked up in concentration camps, while they were making a movie right there.”“Disney clearly had no concern for what was going on in the background. What were they thinking, shooting there?” he said.Disney released its U.S. $200 million live-action version of the popular 1998 animated film “Mulan” about a young woman who pretends to be a man so that she can join the military on behalf of her sick father on its streaming platform Disney+ on Sept. 4.In the credits, the company thanks several entities known to have contributed to Beijing’s repressive rule in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.Among those thanked in the credits are the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda commission in the XUAR, which has sought to justify the camps as voluntary “vocational centers,” despite reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.Disney also thanked the Turpan (in Chinese, Tulufan) prefectural branch of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which in July was sanctioned by the Trump administration for its role in abuses in the region.A longstanding problemAccording to Ma, the problem of filmmakers kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party is a longstanding one for Hollywood.“Disney aren’t the only ones to betray the values of their country of origin by welcoming the Chinese Communist Party, even laying out the red carpet for them.”Actress and former Miss Canada Anastasia Lin, who has been outspokenly critical of China’s human rights abuses in the past, said little appears to have changed in Tinseltown."Nobody puts a gun to the heads of Hollywood screenwriters and asks them to produce work that will please Beijing, but they still do it,” Lin told RFA.“Although they are free to speak out on behalf of the Chinese people, they choose not to do that, which is very disappointing,” she said.Lin said her own career in Hollywood has been negatively affected by her human rights activism, as major Hollywood studios continue to form joint ventures with state-owned Chinese companies that are entirely controlled by the Communist Party."This has created an economic incentive for self-censorship,” Lin said. “You can be pretty sure that no project that is critical of the Chinese Communist Party will see the light of day.”Lawmakers demand answersOn Sept. 11, the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts led 17 other U.S. lawmakers in writing an open letter to Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek, demanding clarification on the company’s cooperation with XUAR agencies.You Ziwei, director and producer of the Hollywood production company Light & Shadow Pictures, said the letter had likely had little impact in Hollywood, however."In the entertainment industry, everything is still all about commercial success." You told RFA. “People generally avoid talking about social justice in case it has an impact on commercial value.”The exile group World Uyghur Congress told RFA that the Turpan police department has been directly involved in the running of internment camps for Uyghurs.“The Mulan credits publicly thank a violent organization in China,” group spokesman Dilshat Rashit told RFA. “The search for profit has blunted any sense of ethics at many companies, and helped to spread China’s genocidal propaganda against Uyghurs.”“We call on people who care about human rights to publicly boycott Mulan, and call on moviegoers not to ally themselves with organizations involved in extreme forms of persecution,” he said.U.S. movie director Judd Apatow recently chimed in with criticism of Hollywood in comments made to a chat show on MSNBC.“Instead of us doing business with China and China becoming more free, what has happened is a place like China has bought our silence with their money,” Apatow told the network’s Mavericks with Ari Melber show.“As a result of that, we never wake up our country or the world through art or satire that people are being mistreated in our country or other countries. So that’s very dangerous,” he said.A local official told RFA earlier this month that detainees at an internment camp in an area of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where Disney shot part of Mulan, are being subjected to forced labor making socks and crushing gravel.Turpan, where the film was shot in part, is a prefecture-level city in eastern Xinjiang whose population of around 650,000 people is some 75 percent Uyghur. The ancient Silk Road city is known as being one of the earliest to have rolled out a campaign of “transformation through education” of Muslims, beginning in August 2013.RFA recently learned from local police officers that as many as eight camps are in operation within the prefecture’s boundaries, despite claims in Paris earlier this month by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that all those sent to camps in the XUAR have been released and placed in employment.Reported by Mia Chieh-ping Chen for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.m
The Oscars have just announced major changes in regards to their diversity requirements and the internet has a lot to say. What Was Announced? When it comes to Oscar nominations and eligibility, the award show has been targeted in the past for not focusing on diversity, inclusion and representation. But things are on their way towards some sort of change. Change starts now. We've announced new representation and inclusion standards for Best Picture eligibility, beginning with the 96th #Oscars. Read more here: https://t.co/qdxtlZIVKb pic.twitter.com/hR6c2jb5LM — The Academy (@TheAcademy) September 9, 2020 Beginning in 2024, inclusion will be a requirement to be considered for Best Picture. This decision comes five years after the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag trended on Twitter and caused major controversy. The Academy announced on Tuesday that the Best Picture nominations will have to meet a certain criteria in order to be considered. Don’t believe any hot-take that calls this affirmative action. These rules are such a LOW BAR if a film hasn’t met them it is doing nothing to represent this country and absolutely should not be Oscar-eligible. #OscarsSoWhite will be for the foreseeable future. https://t.co/7mFLOqWZ8J — AJ Christian (@drajchristian) September 9, 2020 What Social Media Users Had To Say… While many questioned this decision, their curiosity was met with an answer. The organization explained in a statement that the goal of this verdict is to “encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.” Social media users and public figures have already begun to share their opinion and it’s safe to say that not everyone is happy about this concept. And not for the reasons that many are expecting. #Oscars hoping that playing the race and gender cards will make people want to watch rich Hollywood types give each other awards for movies no one's actually watched. When Marvel wins an Oscar, call me. Otherwise, you still suck.#WednesdayWisdom#truthhttps://t.co/PsQfFnevOi — Minerva Neryse (@minervaneryse) September 9, 2020 Celebrities Speak Out Kirstie Alley slammed the decision by tweeting: “This is a disgrace to artists everywhere…can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his f*cking paintings. You people have lost your minds.” She continued to explain that diversity and inclusion should be taught to children and therefore simply become second nature. The fact that this type of representation is now being “forced” or necessary has been seen as unnatural by countless people, including Alley. Diversity and inclusion should be taught, taught so well and so naturally and genuinely that it becomes second nature to our children. — Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) September 9, 2020 Others, on the other hand, are claiming that Alley has missed the point and purpose of these new requirements. She clearly doesn’t get it… the academy isn’t really forcing anyone to DO Anything. She’s saying this like people are OWED an Oscar nomination. You can still make your own art, you just don’t meet criteria for a certain award so stfu. https://t.co/RTejYFkX2i — Julian Bass (@thejulianbass) September 9, 2020 The Arguments All in all, it seems as though the internet is split. Some made comments such as “positive discrimination is still discrimination” will others celebrated the idea that the Oscars are finally moving in the right direction. People criticising the Oscars new inclusion/diversity rules because it destroys "the freedom of an artist". Please. Stop it. pic.twitter.com/4elFfD9P8d — Jo Ferreira #BlackLivesMatter (@joheartsart) September 9, 2020 Many are making the point that it feels strange to control art and indirectly make creators meet a certain criteria. In fact, it’s already been announced that films must meet at least two of four benchmarks. If they do not, that particular film is simply ineligible for Best Picture. This is stupid and filled with hypocrisy. So, hiring diverse actors is not for their talent and acting but just to get nominated and maybe win an Oscar. Instead of actually doing sth about racism, they did this. https://t.co/2zFqVtROzh — #D10S🎗️ (@_ItsKarim) September 9, 2020 Requirements Explained CNN explains that the criteria includes “featuring actors from underrepresented groups in significant roles or accounting for at least 30% of the cast; similar criteria in terms of those working on the film behind the scenes; a significant commitment to paid apprenticeships, internships and career development; and significant representation among the teams devoted to marketing, publicity and distribution.” Many social media users are now referring to Best Picture as the “Diversity & Inclusion Award” and similar variations of the sort. Others are calling this particular decision a form of censorship and as a result, have vowed to not tune in to the show in the future. The Oscars have announced diversity standards for their Best Picture award. It’s no longer about the talent in the Best Picture, but the Most Woke picture. — Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) September 9, 2020 People of color have come forward and openly expressed their concern with this decision. This is ridiculous. There should not be ANY standards. As a latino, I do not like this pityness. — Adam Dynamite 🇺🇸 (@BrewCity1987) September 9, 2020 Ok.I'm a middle eastern bi woman and I'm saying this is ridiculous.we want representation not because they HAVE TO , but 'cuz diversity is normal and realistic . Instead of this they just should not steal awards from good movies to other white ones. — mythical (@queenNnre) September 9, 2020 Within hours of this big announcement, the inclusivity requirements for Best Picture has become a political conflict. Fights have broken out across the internet and many are beginning to choose sides. And despite the mixed reactions, it does not seem as though the Academy is going to change their minds about this. With many deciding that they would no longer be tuning in to the Oscars awhile ago, this decision is no longer important or relevant news to them anyway. And for those boycotting the show, their reasons that this news is just another ridiculous aspect of it continue to be shared. For example, another major point that has been commented on is the fact that the awards are “rigged” anyway. This whole Oscar thing is extra stupid because they were rigged anyway. They could have just pretended to select a "diverse" film without all the ridiculous rules on submittals 🙄 — Joan d'Arc (@Born4ThisMoment) September 9, 2020 The Oscars Drama Continues… Is this criteria going to evoke change for the right reasons? The answer to that question is not only incredibly difficult to answer, but also quite controversial. It’s important to note that this change will not come all at once. These rules will be put in place gradually over the next four years. However, by 2024, the criteria will be required. There are predictable comments regarding this announcement while others are making some convincing arguments. This seems as though it will be an ongoing conversation on social media. Massively stupid. The Oscars will become meaningless. It won't take long before nobody even wants one. Audiences will decline, as an Oscar will be taken by many as a warning of movies NOT to bother to watch. . https://t.co/8zqM6HF5Tr — Godnose (@Godnose) September 9, 2020 More Change is Needed Many industries and franchises, such as Bachelor Nation, have made a point to become more diverse this year following the despicable acts of racial injustice we have all seen. However, many think it’s just a little too late. All of these changes have been labeled by social media users as “forced” and “disingenuous” despite what any executives say or how they try to defend their decisions. Over the years, the Oscars have lost a significant amount of their audience for a variety of reasons. And despite their apparent progress, it seems as though The Academy has some more work to do. In regards to their most recent diversity requirements, it’s unclear if this change will ultimately bring some of those viewers back or simply continue to push them away. Only time will tell. Will you be watching the Oscars following this announcement? Featured image by Jakob Owens and Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash.