Following the announcement on Monday by The Walt Disney Company that it would halt all new movie releases in Russia following that nation’s invasion of Ukraine, National Legal and Policy Center is calling on the entertainment conglomerate to apply its indignance to equally menacing China.
NLPC owns stock in Disney, and has a resolution before its fellow shareholders that will be presented and voted upon at the company’s annual meeting next Wednesday, March 9. The resolution calls for Disney to annually produce a report that outlines its due diligence – or explains its lack thereof – as it pertains to evaluating the human rights impacts of its business and associations with foreign entities. The board of directors of Disney – a multi-billion-dollar corporation – opposes the measure (see page 79), calling it a “misplaced premise” that is “neither a necessary nor productive use of the Company’s resources.”
Despite being called upon by human rights groups to back off from its coziness with the oppressive regime in the Far East, Disney has persisted in its relationship in order to maintain its access to the vast and lucrative Chinese market. Now that Vladimir Putin has initiated an invasion of Ukraine in an unprovoked power grab, Disney CEO Robert Chapek (pictured above) is showing he has a backbone, and that the company has limits to the degrees of evil and aggression it will accept from its international partners.
Paul Chesser, director of NLPC’s Corporate Integrity Project, hopes Disney’s response to Russia’s belligerence will also cause Chapek to revisit the company’s relationship with China.
“The global community, including much of the corporate world, is outraged by Russia’s assault on its neighbor – and rightfully so,” Chesser said. “We applaud Disney and other companies that have said they will punish Putin with their own measures, but now we ask: What about China?”
News reports indicate that China supports Russia’s violent colonialism, appearing to be the only major nation on Putin’s side. China is also a threat to many of its surrounding countries, especially Taiwan, where it continually flaunts its military might to demonstrate its control over the island. The authoritarian government has also been accused of genocide against the Muslim-minority Uyghurs in the province of Xinjiang, imposition of a brutal crackdown and imposition of control over Hong Kong, oppression of the Tibetans, and subjugation of the Chinese people overall to its communist control.
Despite China’s unacceptable conduct, Disney is among several corporations that have embraced a relationship with the tyrannical regime. Previous CEOs have groveled to Chinese prime ministers in the past, seeking to have access to their market restored after some films offended the dictators. Disney took a back seat in an ownership deal with the government to build the Disney Resort in Shanghai, and the company’s subsidiaries eagerly censor their own offerings to comply with the regime’s demands. And for the 2020 release of the live-action film “Mulan,” Disney even gave thanks for the assistance provided by the provincial government in Xinjiang, which is responsible for many of the evils against the Uyghurs.
“Disney is doing the right thing by withholding its entertainment offerings in response to Russia’s unjustified war,” Chesser said. “But China could be considered at least an equal aggressor, against both its own people, its neighbors, and even far-away nations.
“It’s time for corporations to stop rewarding such behavior. We urge Disney to implement transparency about its relationship with the Chinese regime, and better yet, to impose its own sanctions until the communist government improves its human rights record.”
The full text of NLPC’s shareholder resolution for The Walt Disney Company can be viewed here.