Simpsons episode with Tiananmen Square joke missing from Disney+

Simpsons episode with Tiananmen Square sign saying ‘on this site, in 1989, nothing happened’ is missing from Disney+ after streaming service launched in Hong Kong

  • The 2005 episode shows the Simpsons travelling to China to adopt a baby
  • It features a joke about China trying to purge memories of Tiananmen Square
  • The episode is missing on Hong Kong’s Disney+ since launching this month

An episode of The Simpsons which features a joke about Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+ in Hong Kong, raising concerns about Chinese censorship in the city.

First aired in 2005, the 12th episode of series 16 shows the family travelling to China where Marge’s sister Selma tries to adopt a baby, stopping at 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 nod to China’s campaign to purge memories of the massacre.

An episode of The Simpsons which features a joke about Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+ in Hong Kong

Disney+ started streaming in Hong Kong in November and and eagle-eyed customers noticed an episode of The Simpsons featuring China was conspicuously absent

It then shows Selma 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 contains 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.

Disney+ started streaming in Hong Kong this month and viewers quickly noticed the absence of the episode on the platform.

It is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode, was ordered to by authorities or if it was offered in Hong Kong to begin with.

The entertainment giant has not responded to requests for comment, nor has Hong Kong’s government.

When checked today, episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 were available in Hong Kong, but not episode 12. 

The episode shows Selma standing before a tank, referencing the famous photo from the Tiananmen crackdown of a lone man standing in front of a tank

It 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.

Disney+ has made rapid advances since it was launched 18 months ago, reaching more than 116 million worldwide subscribers.

Until recently, semi-autonomous Hong Kong boasted significant artistic and political freedoms compared with mainland China. 

But authorities are currently transforming the city in the wake of huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago.

Among the slew of measures are new censorship laws introduced this summer that forbid any broadcasts that might breach a broad national security law that China imposed on the city last year.

Censors have since ordered directors to make cuts and refused permission for some films to be shown to the public.

Tiananmen Square was the site of a deadly 1989 crackdown against democracy protesters and China has tried to purge memories of the killings

Those rules do not currently cover streaming services but 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 added to concerns that China’s ‘Great Firewall’, a sprawling internet and news censorship regime, could be extended to Hong Kong.

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 that 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.

MailOnline has contacted Disney+ for comment. 

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