Disney+ launched in Hong Kong earlier this month, finally giving the city’s residents access to all its various IPs. Well, almost all of them; it turns out one particular episode of The Simpsons has been omitted from the streaming platform due to its references to Tiananmen Square.
Season 16, Episode 12 of The Simpsons finds Aunt Selma heading to China to adopt a baby, with Homer posing as her husband. When the family attempts to flee the country with the newborn in hand, they end up in Tiananmen Square, where a sign reads, “Tien An Men Square: On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” Selma is then stopped by the head of the adoption agency as she arrives in a tank, making a visual reference to the famed Tank Man from the 1989 Beijing protests and crackdown.
As one might expect, China tends to censor any mention of those historic events, and Disney was apparently happy enough to oblige. By removing the episode, entitled “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” Disney+ has earned the undistinguished honor of “the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” according to Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University (via Bloomberg).
The move comes one month after Hong Kong passed a controversial censorship law banning content that conflicts with the national security law Beijing imposed in June 2020. That law came into effect following mass anti-government protests in Hong Kong, and has largely been used to stymie freedom of expression.
“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” Ng explained. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”