Disney has reportedly removed an episode of “The Simpsons” from its streaming platform in Hong Kong in a move some are viewing as an effort to appease China.
The episode in question, “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” first aired in 2005 and shows the iconic family from Springfield visiting China, including a location called “Tien An Men Square.” There, a sign informs them, “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”
As The Hollywood Reporter noted, “It appears the episode has suffered precisely the kind of the censorship it was written to ridicule.”
The episode’s disappearance follows on the heels of China’s new amendment to its film censorship law that allows Beijing to censor entertainment it deems a threat to national security. According to Variety, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” is still available on the platform in other parts of Asia.
A professor at the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University who specializes in censorship told The Financial Times he believes the episode’s omission is “largely to do with the business interest of US streaming companies.”
“It is in their best interest not to offend the Chinese government, or simply create complications,” professor Kenny Ng said, adding, “they have no strong motivation to put on offending materials at this sensitive moment.”
Ng also said he fears other streaming giants could follow Disney’s lead as “a new ground for negotiations between freedom of expression and censorship” emerges.
Numerous outlets, including The Daily Wire, have reached out to the Walt Disney Company for information about how and why the episode was removed, but so far Disney press representatives have not responded to any media requests.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the Chinese Communist Party has been taking strong steps in recent months to suppress the memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On that site, on June 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on peaceful Tiananmen activists demonstrating for democracy, killing hundreds, possibly thousands (estimates vary).
For the last two years, Beijing has banned candlelight vigils in Hong Kong commemorating the deaths of the Tiananmen victims. They’ve also censored social media groups dedicated to honoring them. Then, in June, state authorities shuttered a museum dedicated to Tiananmen, seized its assets, and arrested some of the proprietors.
China has been exercising greater control over Hong Kong since passing a new national security law in 2020, which The Daily Wire described as sweeping:
Enacted during secret sessions that bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature, it gives police the power to imprison dissenters without trial, shut down newspapers, and investigate cultural institutions without regard to local Hong Kong authorities. As Amnesty International has said, based on the law’s tenets, “‘Endangering national security’ can mean virtually anything,” including wearing clothing with certain pro-freedom slogans.