Several of the “special guests” who appeared in the recent “Friends” reunion on May 27 were reportedly scrubbed from the Chinese version in the communist regime’s latest exhibition of ideological censorship.
Pop stars Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and the K-pop group BTS were removed from different versions of the reunion episode when they were streamed on various Chinese platforms.
“Each missing cameo involved a star or group that had been a past target of Beijing’s ire, and fans suspected the show was stuck in censorship gear,” reported The New York Times.
Pop icon Lady Gaga was likely erased from the episode — in which she joined Phoebe to sing “Smelly Cat” — after sparking anger in Beijing after meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016.
“Chinese fans have reacted with outrage to Lady Gaga’s meeting with the Dalai Lama over the weekend,” reported the BBC, adding, “Her social media posts about meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader on Sunday have led to online speculation over whether she will still be allowed to perform in the country.” The BBC also reported that some users of the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, had their posts censored for sharing pictures of Lady Gaga’s Instagram post.
Justin Bieber is banned from performing in China, with the regime’s “Culture Bureau” citing “bad behavior.”
“Justin Bieber is a gifted singer, but he is also a controversial young foreign singer,” the Bureau announced in a statement in 2017. “We hope that as Justin Bieber matures, he can continue to improve his own words and actions, and truly become a singer beloved by the public.”
In 2014, Bieber “caused upset on social media after he posted a photo of himself visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo,” which “pays tribute to convicted war criminals but in China and South Korea.”
The K-pop group BTS faced a “backlash in China over comments a member made about the Korean War” in October 2020.
“In a speech, the band’s leader, known as RM, mentioned South Korea’s shared ‘history of pain’ with the US over the 1950-53 conflict, in which the two countries fought together,” reported the BBC. With China backing North Korea during the conflict, this reportedly angered the communist regime.
“Chinese netizens said the band’s totally one-sided attitude to the Korean War hurts their feelings and negates history,” reported Chinese state-run media.
This certainly isn’t the first example of the censorship of content in China which offends the radical government. As Slate noted, “In 2018, Chinese moviegoers saw an edited version of Bohemian Rhapsody that cut out scenes and references to Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and AIDS diagnosis,” while “Brad Pitt was banned from China for nearly 20 years for his role in the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet, portrayed Chinese governance negatively.”