Chinese authorities have told major media outlets not to cover Walt Disney's release of 'Mulan', in an order issued after controversy erupted overseas over the film's links with the Xinjiang region.
Set to open in local theatres on Friday, Disney had high hopes for Mulan in China, but starving it of publicity in the country's strictly censored media would be another blow to the $200 million production.
Starring big-name Chinese actors - Jet Li, Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Liu Yifei - and based on a Chinese folk story, Mulan was tailored to appeal to audiences in China, the world's second-largest movie market.
But mixed reviews online and capacity limits in theatres due to coronavirus prevention measures were likely to weigh on its box office performance, even before major media outlets received a notice telling them to refrain from covering the movie.
Three sources told Reuters media outlets had received the notice, two of whom said it was sent by the Cyberspace Administration of China. A fourth source at a major Chinese newspaper said he received a text message with a similar order from a senior colleague.
No reason was given in the notice, but the sources said they believed it was because of the overseas backlash over the film's links to Xinjiang.
Neither the Cyberspace Administration or Disney immediately responded to requests for comment.
Partly shot in Xinjiang, Mulan's credits included thanks to the authorities there, which prompted calls overseas for a boycott of the movie. China's clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang has been criticised by some governments, including the United States, and human rights groups.