Online video streaming service Disney+ appears to have censored an episode of The Simpsons in Hong Kong which references the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

The 12th episode of the 16th season was first broadcast in 2005 and sees the family visit China, where the cartoon family visits the mummified body of ex-leader Mao Zedong. The newly-launched Disney+ platform skips from episode 11 to 13.

simpsons censorship
Photos: The Simpsons.

The missing show – entitled Goo Goo Gai Pan – includes a line of tanks, referencing the iconic “tank man” photo, as well as a joke placard inside Tiananmen Square stating “on this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” The episode is still accessible when viewers enable VPN circumvention tools.

See also: How Hong Kong sought to erase the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

HKFP has reached out to Disney for comment.

Increasing censorship

The massacre has been heavily censored in China for decades.

Meanwhile, following the onset of the Beijing-imposed national security law last June, Hong Kong has arrested leaders of the Alliance, which organised annual commemorations of the 1989 crackdown. The authorities have banned the annual vigil in Victoria Park citing Covid-19, textbooks have been censored, museum exhibits seized, and the University of Hong Kong has demanded the removal of a monument to the dead.

june 4 museum
Photo: Citizen News.

Last month, Hong Kong’s legislature passed a bill which enables the government to ban films deemed contrary to national security from being screened and published in the city. Any person who exhibits an unauthorised film could face up to three years in jail and a HK$1 million fine. However, the the new does not apply to streaming platforms.

When asked if YouTube or other online platforms would be affected, a spokesperson for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau told HKFP in August that “other” laws apply to the internet: “[TV] broadcast and the Internet are subject to other applicable law and regulations. Whether an act constitutes a crime or otherwise would depend on its specific circumstances and evidence, and cannot be taken in isolation or generalised,” they said.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.