Disney Reverses Course and Agrees To Meet With Uyghur Genocide Victims

About-face follows Free Beacon report that Disney executives reneged on offer to meet Uyghur groups

Disney CEO Bob Iger (Getty Images)
June 6, 2023

Disney executives have agreed to meet with Uyghur genocide victims after the Washington Free Beacon revealed the company had reneged on a planned powwow to discuss Disney's friendly relationship with Beijing.

The House of Mouse informed Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) earlier this month that it "will be reaching out to the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the Uyghur American Association directly to arrange a meeting with our appropriate executives," according to a letter sent to the lawmaker and obtained by the Free Beacon.

Banks petitioned the company in May to explain why it allegedly pulled out of a meeting with a group of Uyghurs, their families, and advocates who were concerned with Disney's friendly relationship with China and decision to shoot a film in the province where the Chinese Communist Party is oppressing the country's Muslim minority. Disney officials, Banks disclosed in his initial letter, "suddenly cut off the correspondence" with the advocacy groups and have since "evaded meeting with victims of the Uyghur genocide."

Disney's about-face comes as Congress investigates American companies' work with China. Banks and other lawmakers on the House Select Committee on China are conducting broad investigations into a range of companies, such as Nike and Adidas, that rely on Uyghur slave labor and enable China's genocide. Disney has also been locked in an ongoing battle with Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a 2024 presidential candidate.

Banks told the Free Beacon he is encouraged by Disney’s response, but he said that "we will see if it's a turning point" for the company as it tries to battle the perception it kowtows to China.

"Disney did the right thing here," Banks said, expressing hope that the meeting with Uyghur advocacy groups helps drive "a wedge between Disney and the Chinese Communist Party."

Disney faced criticism for its decision to film the 2020 live-action Mulan remake in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where the CCP wages a genocide against the Uyghur Muslim ethnic minority.

The Mulan film sparked a public relations nightmare for Disney after viewers noticed that the film's credits "thanked several Chinese government agencies," including the Public Security Bureau of Turpan, which the Trump administration sanctioned for human rights crimes. Disney also thanked the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee, "the CCP propaganda arm charged with covering up the abuses," according to Banks's initial letter.

Susan Fox, Disney's senior vice president and head of U.S. government relations, says that the Mulan debacle was a wake-up call for the company.

"We have subsequently increased our due diligence processes around location filming and acknowledgements in film credits," Fox wrote to Banks, "and we have no future plans to film in Xinjiang Province."

These updated guidelines will apply to all future projects filmed in China, the company said.

Disney also claimed that it could not find evidence that it pulled out of any meetings with Uyghur advocates, even though Banks and his colleagues were provided with insider information about the matter.

"Given the size of our company and the number of requests we receive for meetings with representatives of outside organizations, identifying whether or not a particular meeting request was made several years ago is challenging," the company wrote.

Some of the advocates seeking an audience with Disney remain skeptical that the company will change how it deals with China.

"It's hard to see how Disney can make this right," said Uyghur Human Rights Project executive director Omer Kanat, "but they certainly need to try."