Disney+ Pulls The Simpsons Tiananmen Square Episode in Hong Kong

Characters in the film and television series The Simpsons (front to back) Lisa, Bart, Maggie, Marge, and Homer Simpson walk the carpet as they arrive for the premiere of the film The Simpsons Movie in Springfield, Vt., July 21, 2007. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Disney has censored The Simpsons on its streaming service in Hong Kong, omitting an episode that mentions the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 are available to view in Hong Kong, but not episode 12, “Goo Goo Gai Pain.” In the missing episode from 2005, the Simpsons visit Tiananmen square and see a placard that says, “Tien An Men Square: on this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” 

A character also confronts a row of tanks, referencing the famous “tank man” photo taken during the 1989 student uprising, and the family visits the mummified remains of Mao Zedong.

While mention of the massacre of pro-democracy student protestors has long been omitted from public discourse in mainland China, the decision by a U.S. company to voluntarily remove a mention of the massacre in Hong Kong is a novel one.

The move by Disney+, which launched in the Chinese territory on November 16, is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong, one associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University told Bloomberg.

The report comes one month after Hong Kong passed a film censorship law banning content that conflicts with the interests of a national security law. Those who screen non-approved content could face three years in prison. China began enforcing the security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 following a series of massive protests against a controversial bill that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China.

“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” professor Kenny Ng added. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”

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