The Simpsons Tiananmen episode in which the cartoon American family visit Tiananmen Square is missing from the Disney+ streaming service in Hong Kong.
The news of the missing episode comes at a time when authorities are clamping down on dissent, with curbs on speech becoming a norm in the international business hub and ensnaring global media and tech giants.
This adds to concerns about mainland China-style censorship in the city.
Since its launch 18 months ago, Disney+ has made tremendous advancements with a reach of over 116 million worldwide subscribers.
The streaming platform’s Hong Kong version started streaming earlier this month. However, eagle-eyed customers soon noticed the conspicuous absence of “The Simpsons” episode 12 of season 16.
First airing in 2005, the episode features the family’s trip to China in which matriarch Marge Simpson’s sister tries to adopt a baby. In one of the episode’s scenes, the Simpsons are at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the site of a deadly 1989 crackdown against democracy protesters.
The cartoon shows a sign there that reads, “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened” — a satirical nod to China’s campaign to purge memories of what happened.
Next, Marge’s sister is pictured standing before a tank, referencing the famous photo from the Tiananmen crackdown of a lone man standing in front of a tank.
The episode also includes pointed comments about Tibet — where Beijing has been accused of religious oppression — and the Cultural Revolution, a devastating period of upheaval in the last decade of Mao Zedong’s rule.
However, it is unclear whether Disney+ removed the episode on the order of the authorities or if it was even offered in Hong Kong to begin with.
However, the entertainment giant has not responded to requests for comment, nor has Hong Kong’s government.
Disney+’s Hong Kong channel includes episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 were available but not 12.
Until now, Hong Kong had boasted of significant artistic and political freedoms compared with mainland China. However, in light of huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago, authorities are currently transforming the city.
The new censorship laws introduced this summer forbid any broadcasts that might breach a broad national security law that China imposed on the city last year.
However, censors have since ordered directors to make cuts and refused permission for some films to be shown to the public.
Though these rules do not cover streaming services, authorities have warned that online platforms fall under other rules, including the new national security law.
Last week, Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader Carrie Lam vowed to “proactively plug loopholes” in the city’s internet and introduce “fake news” regulations.
Her comments also added to concerns that China’s “Great Firewall” — a sprawling internet and news censorship regime — could be extended to Hong Kong.
However, content that satirises China is still available on other streaming platforms in Hong Kong.
Netflix’s Hong Kong channel is still showing “Band in China”, an episode of the cartoon series “South Park”.
In this episode, one of the characters ends up in a Chinese labour camp, and much of the show lampoons the willingness of American brands to adhere to Chinese censorship rules to make money.
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