Disney has catered to Chinese Communist Party censorship, removing an episode of The Simpsons from its streaming service Disney+ in Hong Kong because the episode contains a joke about Chinese censorship of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, according to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday.
In episode 12 of season 16, entitled “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” Homer Simpson takes his family to China, where they visit Tiananmen Square. While in the area, the family discovers a placard that states: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened,” mocking China’s ongoing efforts to cover up the Chinese government’s deadly attack on protesters.
Additionally, the Simpsons visit the mummified remains of Communist Chinese Leader and mass murderer Mao Zedong. The family also encounters a row of tanks in Beijing, a nod to the well-known “tank man” photo captured during the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the decision to remove the episode in Hong Kong was voluntary.
“This is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” Kenny Ng, a Hong Kong Baptist University professor specializing in film censorship, told Bloomberg. “Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government … This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”
In October, the Hong Kong government passed a law banning films that infringe on China’s national security interests. Violators could face up to three years in prison and $130,000 in fines, the BBC reported.
The anti-free speech law provides the chief secretary with the power to withdraw a film’s license if it appears to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security.
Kiwi Chow, a filmmaker whose documentary “Revolution of Our Times” was featured at the Cannes Film Festival, told Reuters news agency the law would “worsen self-censorship and fuel fear among filmmakers.”
Also last month, the University of Hong Kong demanded that the famous “Pillar of Shame” statue erected in honor of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre be removed, a letter written from UHK’s London-based legal team revealed.
According to the BBC, the university’s decision was “based on the latest risk assessment and legal advice.” The school did not elaborate on its explanation, including whether or not the Chinese Communist Party may have pressured their decision.
Created by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt, the “Pillar of Shame” portrays numerous torn and twisted bodies in acknowledgment of the Chinese communist regime’s brutal and deadly crackdown on pro-democracy college protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The statue has been on display at UHK for 24 years.