Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei, officially became an international star after nabbing the titular role of Disney’s live-action remake of the movie, Mulan. The 31-year-old actress born in Wuhan, China, lived in Queens, New York from the age of 10 to 14, but returned to China to enroll at the Beijing Film Academy.
While excitement for the new Mulan film hit a fever pitch after Disney released the first official trailer in July, there’s since been a massive strike for the film’s support after Yifei shared her thoughts on the protests happening in Hong Kong. Tweeting to her 65 million followers on Weibo, which is a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, in which she seemingly voiced support for Hong Kong’s brutal violence against protestors, the hashtag #BoycottMulan started to trend online, and has gained traction stateside.
Here’s what you need to know about Liu Yifei….
1. Yifei Said, ‘I Support Hong Kong’s Police, You Can Beat Me Up Now’
Sharing a Chinese propaganda image originally released by People’s Daily Yifei wrote, “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now,” and “what a shame for Hong Kong,” a day after the UN Human Rights office accused the Hong Police of “employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards,” which thereby create “a considerable risk of death or serious injury.”
The protest in Hong Kong have raging on since June, and the police have been documented firing tear gas and rubber bullets directly at protestors. Sharing photos of injured citizens of Hong Kong, users online couldn’t help but mention how Yifei’s statements to stand in complete opposition of the feminine hero she’s portraying on-screen. One tweet read, “Liu Yifei, you are the MULAN ACTRESS how come you support POLICE BRUTALITY IN HONG KONG, ESPECIALLY TOWARDS WOMEN?”
2. She was Nominated for China’s Worst Actress Three Times
Prior to the Mulan protests, Yifei was nicknamed in China as “fairy sister” for her angelic looks, and grouped into what knows as the “Four New Dan Actresses.” While the term used to refer to male actors who portray young women in the Peking Opera, it has since changed to refer to the country’s most popular young actresses. Notable previous credits of Yifei includes the TV series Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and played protagonist Xiaolongnu in The Return of the Condor Heroes. Her film resume includes The Forbidden Kingdom, Outcast, and The Four movie trilogy.
Despite her success, on Douban, which is China’s equivalent to IMDb, Yifei was nominated as the country’s worst actress in 2012, 2013, and 2016. Much of her criticism stems from the opinion that she’s one note actress who doesn’t show emotion. Jin Yong, who wrote the martial-arts novels for the Condor series said of her casting, “Ms. Liu looks pretty, but she is afraid of being ugly, and she doesn’t dare make facial expressions.”
3. Yifei Is Also a Professional Singer
While Yifei started acting and modeling at a very young age, she also had a professional singing career. Signed with Sony Music Entertainment, Yifei released a Chinese-language self-titled album in 2006, which followed her Japanese-language album. One of her singles, “Mayonaka no Doa,” was picked to be the theme song for the Japanese anime series, Powderpuff Girls Z. She is also a classically trained pianist.
Yifei appears to have put her music career on hold in lieu of her acting career and martial arts training, which has been a requirement for most of her recent film credits, including Mulan, which is set to be released on March 27, 2020.
4. She Took Her Mother’s Maiden Name After Parents’ Divorce
Yifei’s parents divorced while she was 10 years old, and afterward, she chose to take her mother’s maiden name. Liu Xiaoli used to be a dancer and stage performer, and Yifei credits her mother for her upbringing. Yifei and her mom are big cat lovers, and together they work with a non-profit which helps felines find new homes.
An Shaokang, her father was a professor at Wuhan University, where he taught French. He later worked at the Chinese embassy in Paris after joining the diplomatic corps. In 2017, Yifei’s father became the dean of The Confucius Institute of Paris Diderot University.
5. Her Godfather is one of China’s Richest People
Listed by Forbes as one of China’s richest 500 people, is Chen Jinfei, Yifei’s godfather. As the Chairman of Beijing Tongchan Investment Group, he has an estimated net worth of $62 million.