'The Simpsons' episode on Tiananmen massacre missing from Disney+ in Hong Kong

It is unclear if Disney+ removed the episode or were ordered by the authorities to do so.

Jean Chien Tay | November 30, 2021, 06:32 PM

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An episode of "The Simpsons" that features references to the Tiananmen massacre in China is missing from the Disney+ subscription service in the special administrative region of Hong Kong, The Guardian reported.

Episode 12 of season 16, entitled "Goo Goo Gai Pan", featured the yellow chinless family travelling to China to adopt a baby.

During their time there, the Simpsons visited Tiananmen Square, the site where a brutal crackdown on protestors took place on June 4, 1989.

References to the Tiananmen massacre

The scene in the cartoon showed plaque at Tiananmen Square that read, "On this site, in 1989, nothing happened".

China's censorship of the Tiananmen incident is well known.

Photo via @thorcmd/Twitter

Another scene in the episode also featured a character standing in front of a tank, an unsubtle reference to the highly recognisable "tank man".

Image via @consequence/Twitter

"Tank man" is considered an iconic figure of the Tiananmen massacre, and widely held up as an anti-authority figure.

The unidentified man is said to have attempted to obstruct military tanks that were passing by the Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989 -- a day after the Tiananmen massacre.

Featured body of Mao Zedong

According to the BBC, the Simpsons also visit the embalmed body of former Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong in another part of the episode.

Image via @montesebrasil/Twitter

Homer Simpson, one of the main characters and the father of the family, reportedly referred to Mao as "a little angel that killed 50 million people".

Mao, the founding father of the Chinese Communist Party, launched the decade-long Cultural Revolution in 1966 to reassert his control over the Chinese government, according to The Guardian.

At the time, he urged the population to rid itself of the “Four Olds” -- old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas.

Under his influence, students formed groups called the "Red Guard" that targeted those who were seen as having "bourgeois" clothes or reactionary haircuts.

People that were targeted included party officials, teachers and intellectuals.

They were publicly humiliated, beaten and in some cases murdered or driven to suicide after vicious “struggle sessions”.

An estimated 500,000 to two million people died due to the Cultural Revolution, and Chinese President Xi Jinping's father was reportedly beaten, humiliated, and exiled.

In a recent resolution adopted by the Chinese Communist Party on Nov. 11, the party referred to the Cultural Revolution as "catastrophic", Nikkei Asia reported.

Still accessible with VPN

In Disney's streaming service which was launched in Hong Kong in November, the 16th season of "The Simpsons" skips past the 12th episode, while the episodes before and after it are still available, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.

Image via @thorcmd/Twitter

However, the episode is reportedly accessible for viewers who use virtual private network (VPN) services.

Disney and Hong Kong's government have yet to respond to The Guardian's request for comments.

It is reportedly unclear whether Disney+ removed the episode or it was ordered by the authorities to do so.

Tiananmen massacre

The Tiananmen massacre is a brutal crackdown on student-led democracy protests, which occurred on June 4, 1989, and remains a taboo topic in China today.

According to the New York Times, the Chinese army opened fire on students and pro-democracy protestors at the time.

While the Chinese government reported casualty numbers of over 200 people, a secret British diplomatic cable written by the British ambassador to China at the time alleged that at least 10,000 people were killed, the BBC reported.

Tightening control in Hong Kong

The episode's disappearance coincides with the tightening controls on the entertainment industry in the special administrative region.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council passed a bill Oct. 27 that grants the government power to ban films that are deemed contrary to national security from screening and publishing in the city, HKFP reported.

Under the new legislation, individuals who exhibit an unauthorised film could be jailed for up to three years and fined up to HK$1 million (S$175,684).

However, the authorities said that YouTube and other online platforms will be governed by different regulations.

According to The Guardian, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam previously vowed to “proactively plug loopholes” in the city’s internet and introduce “fake news” regulations.

Her comments have added to concerns that China’s censorship apparatus could make its way into Hong Kong.

"South Park" episode about Chinese labour camp still available on Netflix

Meanwhile, an episode of "South Park" where one of the characters ends up in a labour camp in China is still available on Netflix's Hong Kong platform, The Guardian reported.

The episode of the cartoon series reportedly criticises American brands who bow to China's censorship rules for commercial interests.

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Top image via @thorcmd/Twitter & @montesebrasil/Twitter