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Disney Removes Episode of Animated Comedy From Streaming Service in Hong Kong

FILE - The logo of the Times Square Disney store is seen in Times Square, New York City, Dec. 5, 2019.
FILE - The logo of the Times Square Disney store is seen in Times Square, New York City, Dec. 5, 2019.

U.S. entertainment giant Disney has removed an episode of the animated situation comedy The Simpsons from its streaming service in Hong Kong because of a reference to forced labor camps in China.

The episode, titled “One Angry Lisa,” which first aired in October in the United States, features a scene in which one of the main characters is taking part in a virtual exercise bike class with the instructor in front of a portrait of China’s iconic Great Wall. In the episode, the instructor says, “behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones.”

China has been accused by international human rights groups and Western nations for detaining millions of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in the remote northwest region of Xinjiang, subjecting them to torture, forced sterilization and forced labor. The United States has formally labeled the Chinese government’s policies and treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang as “genocide.” Beijing maintains its actions in Xinjiang are to root out Islamic extremism.

The story was first reported Monday by the British newspaper the Financial Times. The FT said Hong Kong government officials informed the news outlet that a film censorship law passed in 2021 aimed at safeguarding national security does not apply to streaming video services.

Disney also removed an episode from its streaming service in Hong Kong back in 2021, which originally ran in 2005, that made a humorous reference to the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy forces by Chinese troops in Tiananmen Square.

The Simpsons is currently in its 34th season on the U.S.-based Fox television network.

Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse.

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