Chinese sites accused of censoring LGBT content from Friends

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Several Chinese streaming platforms have been accused of censoring LGBT plotlines from hit US sitcom Friends.

The show was re-released in China earlier this week on Tencent, Bilibili, Sohu, iQiyi and Alibaba's Youku.

But Chinese fans have complained of scenes being deleted, including those that reference a lesbian character, and another featuring a same-sex kiss.

It is unclear why the scenes have been removed, and none of the platforms have responded publicly to the accusations.

The show, which ran from 1994-2004, is based in New York City and centres around a group of friends played by Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

Friends has a massive following in China, with many Chinese millennials crediting the show with teaching them English and introducing them to US culture.

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Sohu held broadcast rights between 2012 and 2018, and aired full, uncensored episodes at the time.

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But Chinese fans shared their dismay on social media about the re-release and its omissions.

In one instance, dialogue was axed about the ex-wife of one character, Ross, who left him after she realised she was a lesbian.

Incorrect subtitles were also used to downplay sexual references, the South China Morning Post reports. In one scene, the phrase "multiple orgasms" was translated to the Chinese phrase for "women have endless gossips".

"Not only does it ignore women's sexual desire and enjoyment… [it] also reinforces the gender stereotype of women," one user wrote on social media site Weibo, according to CNN.

"If you can't show the complete version under the current atmosphere, then don't import it," wrote another.

Several users have called for a boycott of the show in protest.

The hashtag #FriendsCensored has became a popular term on Weibo in recent days. But on Sunday, searches for the hashtag and other variations produced either zero or limited results – indicating discussions may have caught the attention of Chinese censors.

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In recent years, China has shut down tens of thousands of websites and social media accounts containing "vulgar" and pornographic content, and other material deemed illegal or anti-Chinese.

Scenes featuring Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and K-Pop band BTS were cut from a Friends reunion special aired last year.

It's unclear why the musicians were removed from the final broadcast, but all three have previously been accused of insulting China. Lady Gaga, for example, has been banned from touring in the country after meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016.

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