Disney cuts Simpsons ‘forced labour’ episode in Hong Kong

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Disney has removed an episode of The Simpsons referencing “forced labour camps” in China from its streaming service in Hong Kong.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the episode, One Angry Lisa from The Simpsons’ 34th series, is not available to stream on Disney+ in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The episode first aired on television in October. It is not clear when it was removed from the Hong Kong streaming service.

In the episode, Marge Simpson takes a virtual spin class with an instructor who is in front of a virtual background of the Great Wall of China and says: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labour camps where children make smartphones.”

The issue of forced labour is sensitive in China. Communist-ruled Beijing has increasingly imposed its controls over Hong Kong, a former British colony, after taking control of the territory in 1997.

Marge Simpson
The ‘forced labour’ joke involved Marge Simpson taking a virtual spin class (Photo 12/Alamy/PA)

China has rejected accusations it uses forced labour in those camps.

China says the camps are education centres designed to teach Mandarin Chinese and vocational skills.

China promised Hong Kong would retain its western-style freedoms for 50 years after the handover from British rule.

But Beijing has been tightening controls after imposing a National Security Law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, raising concerns over a weakening of civil liberties such as freedom of speech and the press.

In 2021, Hong Kong implemented a film censorship law which allows authorities to ban films deemed contrary to national security interests. At the time, officials said regulating films shown online would be outside the scope of the Bill.

Censorship of western television series or films is common in mainland China, with censors deleting scenes or banning content seen as going against values deemed appropriate by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Simpsons has been screened at times in China. Clips of The Simpsons can still be found on Chinese video sites but not the scene from One Angry Lisa.

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