Disney's Hong Kong service drops 'Simpsons' episode with 'forced labor' reference

FILE PHOTO: Disney's Hong Kong service drops Simpsons episode with 'forced labor' reference

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co has cut an episode from the hit cartoon series "The Simpsons" that contains a reference to "forced labour camps" in China from its streaming service in Hong Kong, according to a check of the service.

The episode "One Angry Lisa", which first aired in October on television, is not available on the U.S. company's Disney Plus streaming service in Hong Kong, according to a check by Reuters.

The Financial Times first reported the absence of the episode.

Reuters was not able to establish when it was removed from the Hong Kong service and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the episode, the character Marge Simpson is shown images of China's Great Wall during an exercise class as her instructor says: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labour camps where children make smartphones.”

China denies any suggestion that forced labour occurs there.

Rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of abuses against members of the mainly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority in the western region of Xinjiang, including the use of forced labour in internment camps.

In 2021, Disney removed an episode of "The Simpsons" that made a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown when it first launched its Disney Plus service in Hong Kong.

The former British colony of Hong Kong has special freedoms under a "one country, two systems" formula agreed when it was handed back to China in 1997, but Hong Kong democracy campaigners say Beijing has over the years been eroding those freedoms. Beijing and Hong Kong's government deny that.

In 2021, Hong Kong's legislature passed a film censorship law to "safeguard national security" but officials said at the time that the law did not apply to streaming services.

The Hong Kong government said the film censorship law was aimed at content deemed to "endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security".

(Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Robert Birsel)