June 3, 2022 was the 33rd anniversary of the massacre of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square by the Chinese Communists.
(p. A4) HONG KONG — An episode of “The Simpsons” that ridicules Chinese government censorship appears to have been censored on Disney’s newly launched streaming service in Hong Kong, adding to fears about the shrinking space for free expression and criticism in this city.
Other episodes of the show are available on Disney+, which made its much-anticipated debut in Hong Kong this month. But in season 16, the archive skips directly from episode 11 to episode 13, omitting episode 12, “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” in which the Simpson family travels to Beijing.
There, they visit the embalmed body of Mao Zedong, whom Homer Simpson calls “a little angel that killed 50 million people.” In another scene, the family passes through Tiananmen Square, where a plaque says “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened” — a jab at the Chinese government’s attempts to suppress public memory of the massacre, in which the army opened fire on students and other pro-democracy protesters.
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. . . Disney pre-emptively censored itself, said Grace Leung, an expert in media regulation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Disney obviously sent out a clear signal to the local audience that it will remove controversial programs in order to please” the Chinese government, Dr. Leung said. “Their credibility will definitely be hurt.”
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In Hong Kong, the “Simpsons” episode is not the only creative work to come under scrutiny for touching on Tiananmen Square.
Ahead of the opening this month of M+, a major new art museum in Hong Kong, lawmakers called for a ban on a photograph by Ai Weiwei, perhaps China’s most famous artist, who is now living in exile. In the photograph, which the museum has since removed from its online archive, Mr. Ai is raising his middle finger in front of Tiananmen Square.
The University of Hong Kong has ordered the removal of “Pillar of Shame,” a sculpture commemorating the massacre that has stood on campus for over 20 years.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 29, 2021, and has the title “A ‘Simpsons’ Episode Lampooned Chinese Censorship. In Hong Kong, It Vanished.” Where there is a slight difference in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)