Written by Cooper Mercier
What’s happening: Disney has backpedaled on its reluctance to meet with Uyghur genocide victims and advocacy groups after Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) called out the company. This came after Disney said it would meet with the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the Uyghur American Association to discuss the company’s working relationship with China, only to dodge the meeting and “suddenly cut off the correspondence.”
Why meet with the Uyghur genocide victims? Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic minority originating from Central and East Asia, have been oppressed by the Chinese Communist Party, with millions forcefully detained in internment camps simply on the basis of ethnicity and/or religion. Despite this, Disney has maintained a friendly business relationship with the country, including filming its 2020 adaptation of Mulan near an internment camp. The end credits of Mulan notably thanked many Chinese government agencies, including a “CCP propaganda arm.”
Disney says: Disney’s senior vice president of government relations told Banks that Disney has “subsequently increased our due diligence processes around location filming and acknowledgments in film credits” and has “no future plans to film in Xinjiang Province,” where millions of Uyghurs are reportedly detained. (Disney is not the only company to maintain a transactional connection with China. Companies like Nike and Adidas profit immensely from Uyghur slave labor. Apple and Tesla were also linked to Uyghur slave labor.)
The tightrope: Despite the ethical concerns surrounding the Chinese Communist Party, Disney has appeased the country to gain access to its vast film market. But, as Disney tries to get back in good graces with Republican lawmakers in the U.S., it must now balance its financial decisions with its social impact. This pivot to meet with Uyghurs shows that it is increasingly difficult for corporations to avoid confronting their unethical decisions.