Chinese fans of 'Friends' angry after show re-released with censorship

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FILE PHOTO: The cast of "Friends" appears in the photo room at the 54th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 22, 2002. From the left are, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

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BEIJING, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Chinese fans of U.S. sitcom "Friends" have expressed dismay online after noticing censorship in recently released episodes of the beloved show, including of LGBT issues.

Several major Chinese streaming sites, including Tencent (0700.HK), Baidu's IQiyi Inc (IQ.O), Alibaba's Youku, and Bilibili (9626.HK), started showing a version of the first season of the show on Friday, its first re-release in China for several years.

But fans soon noticed parts of the long-running show were different to what they had seen before and complained of censorship which included the removal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-related content, as well as mistranslations.

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In one example, a conversation where a main character, Ross, explained his wife was a lesbian, was deleted.

Another scene where another character, Joey, suggested going to a "strip joint" was translated as "go out to play" on the version shown on Tencent Video. Reuters confirmed the Tencent version of the re-released season included those changes.

In recent years, China has shut tens of thousands of websites and social media accounts that contained what it said was illegal content as well as "vulgar" and pornographic material.

"I resolutely boycott the castrated version of 'Friends'," said one user on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

"This is a defiling a classic," said another.

A third user said "if you can't show the complete version under the current atmoshphere, then don't import it."

The discussion was a "hot search topic" on Weibo on Sunday.

But in a sign the discussion itself may have caught the attention of censors, searches on Weibo on Sunday for several variations on the hashtag or search term #Friendshasbeencensored produced either zero or limited recent results.

'Friends' has a vast fan base in China. Many watched it on pirated DVDs or downloads after the hit 10-season show first aired in the 1990s.

Chinese streaming site SOHU TV bought the broadcasting rights to the show but this ended in 2018, the company said.

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Reporting by Albee Zhang and Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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