Disney Under Fire For Blocking Simpsons Episode From Hong Kong Streaming Services

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021 - 12:20 AM

A month ago we reported that Hong Kong's new pro-China film censorship law could see an eventual ban on Netflix and Amazon and other streaming services. The legislation was part of the continuing unfolding of the sweeping pro-China 'national security law' of June 2020, with the film censorship even working retroactively for any movies or programming "found to be contrary to national security interests".

Questions are now being asked about why Disney's streaming service in Hong Kong, Disney Plus, has blocked a popular episode of the "Simpsons". The episode in question features reference to the famous "tank man" photo from the June 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. The episode entitled "Goo Goo Gai Pan" also features jokes or references that could be deemed offensive to people of Chinese or Asian descent.

The Simpsons

The censorship law which was enacted late last month brings Hong Kong in closer to conformity to the kind of blatant censoring and wholesale blocking of content that's long existed on the mainland. The law spells out that films are prohibited from any content aiming to "endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security."

According to The Wall Street Journal on Monday:

Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+, earlier in November in Hong Kong featuring an array of programming owned by the entertainment giant, including 32 seasons of the animated comedy series.

Yet one episode is missing from "The Simpsons" lineup: Titled "Goo Goo Gai Pan," the episode from season 16 centers on a trip to China by the show’s namesake family. Along the way they encounter a plaque at Tiananmen Square in Beijing that reads: "On this site, in 1989, nothing happened."

The scene is an obvious sarcastic shot aimed directly at Chinese Communist propaganda and its well-known whitewashing of the whole events of June 4, when the PLA military declared martial law and occupied central parts of Beijing, forcibly quelling the protests through gunfire. In the episode the family actually takes a trip to China where they happen upon the iconic square where "nothing happened". 

Chinese state official have downplayed the death toll, saying in the past that up to 200 civilians died in the mayhem, while activists and student leaders have said over 3,000 or more deaths resulted in the PLA crackdown, which included live ammunition, and use of tanks against civilian crowds. Official Chinese media and politicians tens to only reference what they dub "the incident".

The WSJ notes that it's as yet unclear if Disney caved to pressure from China, as the US company has yet to publicly comment on why the episode in question remains blocked.

But there's little doubt Disney has in the recent past shown its willingness to "play nice" and avoid offending Beijing while protecting its billions in revenue there: "Disney has huge business interests in China, a market that it and other Hollywood studios are careful not to offend for fear of losing access," the WSJ report describes. "Disney, with resorts in China and Hong Kong and extensive sales from its movie business in the region, has moved aggressively to maintain the peace with China over the years, a fact that has brought it some controversy in the U.S."

Shortly after the HK policy was enacted, there were questions over how it would impact US-based streaming services. The AFP observed at the time: "Pro-Beijing lawmakers criticized the government for not including online streaming companies in the current wording, meaning services like Netflix, HBO and Amazon may not be covered but the new rules." But "In response, Commerce Secretary Edward Yau said all screenings, both physical and online, were covered by the new national security law."