It seems every day there’s a new call from patriotic Weibo users to boycott a brand or product that’s seemingly not conforming to the Chinese government’s policies on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Now there’s a new call to boycott… except it’s not coming from Weibo users in China. It’s coming from outside China, on Twitter.

On Friday, users on Twitter started the hashtag #BoycottMulan -- not because of anything specific in the upcoming Disney film, which hasn’t come out yet, but because of a Weibo post by lead actress Liu Yifei. 

On Wednesday evening, Liu shared a People’s Daily Weibo post that included the hashtag “I support Hong Kong Police” and a meme that reads “I support Hong Kong police; you can beat me now.” The picture included in English, “What a shame for Hong Kong.” Liu shared the post and added the same hashtag.

Disney’s live-action Mulan has many Chinese fans excited. (Picture: Disney)

The meme is a reference to a Global Times reporter who reportedly said the same thing to protesters at Hong Kong’s airport before being beaten by them. The treatment of the reporter for the state-owned tabloid bolstered nationalist sentiment in the mainland, and the meme went viral. But outside China, it wasn’t seen in such a friendly light.

Liu’s post, which has been shared almost 700,000 times on Weibo, triggered a wave of angry comments on Twitter.

“It’s irony that she enjoys US’s freedom but shows hatred to freedom,” one Twitter user posted, referencing the fact that Liu is a naturalized US citizen. 

Others are posting pictures allegedly of Hong Kong police violence under the #BoycottMulan hashtag, and similar comments are seen under Mulan and Liu Yifei’s posts on Instagram. On LIHKG, a Reddit-like forum that protesters use to mobilize, people are also calling for others to comment on the official Mulan trailer on YouTube.

Weibo users who have noticed the calls for a boycott on Twitter are, not surprisingly, supportive of the Chinese actress.

“It’s her duty to fight for her homeland!” one Weibo user wrote, quoting a line in the Mulan trailer.

In the past week, Weibo users have called for a series of online protests against foreign brands. Apple and Samsung were called out for not referring to Taiwan or Hong Kong as part of China, and Amazon was criticized for selling T-shirts promoting the Hong Kong protests. Many of the T-shirts on Amazon were removed from search listings after the Weibo backlash, although others are still listed. 

Also caught up in the Weibo crusade were luxury brands Coach, Versace and Givenchy, all of which apologized for T-shirts they sold that didn’t explicitly list Hong Kong or Taiwan as part of China. Even Huawei was caught up in the backlash.

Given the fraught situation in Hong Kong, it may have only been a matter of time before a high profile celebrity like Liu got caught up in a backlash. Recent comments from Jackie Chan, who has long been more supportive of Beijing, didn’t result in calls for a boycott -- but Chan hasn’t had a high-profile film in the US for years.

Mulan isn’t due to hit cinemas until 2020, so there’s plenty of time yet to see whether the boycott either gathers steam or peters out. Either way, Disney probably has high hopes for Mulan: Their last remake of an animated film from the 90s, The Lion King, pulled in US$1.3 billion at the global box office.