Disney Scrubs ‘Simpsons’ Episode from Hong Kong over ‘Forced Labor’ Comment
On Monday, it was reported that Disney removed an episode of the series “The Simpsons” from its streaming service in Hong Kong because of a line referring to “forced labor camps.” Experts say the move is the latest in a series of decisions made by the entertainment giant that appear to acquiesce to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) demands in order to stay in business in the country, despite ongoing human rights abuses that are being committed by the regime.
The banned episode, entitled “One Angry Lisa,” premiered last October in the U.S. and includes a scene depicting an exercise class attended by Marge Simpson with a screen behind her showing the Great Wall of China. The instructor remarks, “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones.”
Newsmax reported that a “source familiar with the matter said airing the episode would have put Disney at odds with the national security law passed by Chinese officials in 2020.” The 2020 Hong Kong law effectively shut down free speech in the city and placed it under direct administrative control of the CCP.
“This is a sad demonstration of just how much any expression of free speech scares the Chinese Communist Party,” Arielle Del Turco, assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. “Since the CCP has taken more direct control of Hong Kong, the city’s freedoms have eroded rapidly — even the freedom to simply watch an episode of ‘The Simpsons.’”
Despite Disney’s cooperation with the CCP to erase references to “forced labor” in the country, the existence of camps in China where citizens are forced to work has been verified by multiple sources, including the U.S. government. The CCP has denied that forced labor occurs at these camps and insists that they are merely used for “vocational education and training.”
However, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor, the CCP “has arbitrarily detained more than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in China’s far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” The report goes on to estimate that “100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minority ex-detainees in China may be working in conditions of forced labor following detention in re-education camps.”
The report lists at least 18 different types of goods produced by forced labor in China, including artificial flowers, bricks, Christmas decorations, coal, cotton, electronics, fireworks, fish, footwear, garments, gloves, hair products, nails, polysilicon, textiles, thread/yarn, tomato products, and toys.
The scrubbing of the “Simpsons” episode by Disney fits a pattern of censorship the company has engaged in recently in order to conform with the CCP’s strict speech codes. In 2021, the company pulled another “Simpsons” episode from its Hong Kong streaming service that referenced the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It also worked closely with CCP officials to produce the 2020 remake of “Mulan” in the Xinjiang province where the regime has engaged in the persecution of the Uyghur population. The company is part of a Hollywood-wide pattern of self-censorship that has been occurring in order for American movies to be granted access to the Chinese box office. U.S. films earned $2.6 billion in China in 2019 alone.
While Disney is removing content to appease CCP censors overseas, it is simultaneously releasing content in the domestic market that is generating strong backlash from parents and conservative groups who are concerned about controversial ideological ideas about sexuality and race being targeting at children.
“Today’s Walt Disney Company is a far cry from the one we grew up with,” observed Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch” last week. “Most of Disney’s shows [and] movies produced [today] include woke and LGBT virtue signaling, while making sure to include trigger warnings for its older classic films. It’s ludicrous.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.