Liu Yifei, the China-born actress starring in Disney's live-action remake "Mulan", plunged into Hong Kong's protest controversy on Thursday, expressing her support for the city's police, the anti-government protesters accused of using excessive force to suppress riots.
"I support the Hong Kong police, they can all attack me now, what a shame for Hong Kong," she posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform.
Immediately, people started posting #BoycottMulan on Twitter – which is banned in China. Hours later, the hashtag in Hong Kong and the United States was on trend with 37,700 tweets posted at the time of writing. Twitter users accused the actress of supporting the brutality of the police and pointed out that she is an American citizen.
"Liu is a naturalized American citizen, it has to be nice, in the meantime, she pisses on people fighting for democracy," a person tweeted
On the other hand, she also received much praise for Weibo, the dominant platform in China. Almost all of the comments in her post found support from the Hong Kong and Beijing police.
"Believe in the government, believe in the Chinese central government, believe the country," wrote a comment.
The protests, which began in June as largely peaceful mass demonstrations against a now suspended extradition law, have turned into something much darker and more violent, with frequent clashes between protesters and police.
Liu is not the only Chinese celebrity to indulge – Jackie Chan, a martial arts film icon and native of Hong Kong, called for peace in an interview with China's CCTV channel Thursday. He was also blasted on Twitter for the nationalist tone of his message – he once said in Mandarin, "I'm proud to be Chinese everywhere, the red five-star flag is respected everywhere."
Other public figures, actors and singers such as Tony Leung Ka-fai and Daniel Chan have spoken out against the violence and vandalism of the demonstrators. Pop star Denise Ho spoke strongly in favor of the demonstrators – she even gave a speech about the protests at a UN meeting last month.
Celebrities outside Hong Kong and China have also participated. Kim Eui Sung, a South Korean actor featured in the 2016 "Train to Busan" zombie apocalypse cult movie, expressed his support for the protesters on Instagram and wrote, "We're watching you and praying for you. # Free Hong Kong. " After being bombarded with critical and Beijing-friendly comments, he published another photo – the infamous Panzermann shot dead by the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The sports drink brand Pocari Sweat was also cheered on by protesters and boycotted by the opposition after the company pulled ads from a local broadcaster perceived as pro-Beijing. Even bubble tea was added to the mix. A Taiwanese chain urged solidarity with protesters.
And since the riots had no end in sight, both sides were content in the long run.
"So disappointed," a Twitter user of Liu's Weibo Post said. "Was so excited for Mulan, too."