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Disney won’t show ‘Simpsons’ episode in Hong Kong that mentions ‘forced labor’

<i>Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)</i><br/>An episode of
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
An episode of "The Simpsons" that includes a line about "forced labor camps" in mainland China has been pulled from Disney's streaming platform in Hong Kong.

By Michelle Toh, CNN

An episode of “The Simpsons” that includes a line about “forced labor camps” in mainland China has been pulled from Disney’s streaming platform in Hong Kong.

A scene in the second episode of its latest season depicts the show’s matriarch, Marge Simpson, cycling on an indoor spin bike with an on-screen instructor in front of a virtual background of the Great Wall of China.

During the scene, the instructor says: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones, and romance.”

CNN has confirmed that the episode — which first aired in October — is unavailable on the Hong Kong version of Disney+. The episode, however, is available to watch in the United States on Hulu, another Disney platform.

The removal comes after the introduction of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong in 2020, which bans “sedition, secession and subversion” against Beijing. It also enables Chinese national security agencies to operate in the city.

The Financial Times was first to report the news on Monday. Disney declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government told CNN that it would not comment on individual business decisions, including whether it had approached Disney to take down the episode.

But offenses under the national security law, the spokesperson said, “are clearly defined” and “law-abiding people and organizations will not unwittingly violate the law.”

The person clarified that a separate film censorship law only pertains to the exhibition of films, and does not “apply to streaming services or internet platforms.”

Disney has faced scrutiny for omitting content deemed critical of China before — including with the same show.

In November 2021, the Hollywood giant removed another episode of “The Simpsons” from its Disney+ platform in Hong Kong. It featured a scene in Tiananmen Square, the site of a brutal massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.

In that episode, the Simpsons family visiting the Chinese capital comes across a sign in the square that says, “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

The latest reference comes as China continues to be accused of forced labor, particularly in its far western region of Xinjiang.

In 2021, the United States barred all imports from the region, where the US State Department has estimated that up to two million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic groups have been imprisoned in a network of internment camps. Former detainees have alleged they were subjected to intense political indoctrination, forced labor, torture, and sexual abuse in such sites.

China has fiercely denied committing human rights violations in Xinjiang. It has previously said it established such centers as a way to counter “extremism” in the region.

— CNN’s Tara Subramaniam contributed to this report.

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