Friends reunion special: The one where China censors Gaga, BTS, Bieber

BEIJING Chinese fans of the popular sitcom Friends were furious after censors cut guest stars Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Korean boy band BTS from the much-awaited reunion episode.

When the one-off special of the beloved 1990s sitcom was streamed on three Chinese video platforms, cameos by the celebrities who have all incurred the wrath of the ruling Communist Party were removed from all versions.

Lady Gaga was banned from touring China in 2016 after she met with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who is deemed a separatist by Beijing.

Bieber has been blocked since 2014 when he posted a photo of himself at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honours Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.

BTS angered the party last year when they omitted any reference to Chinese fighters who died during the Korean War when speaking about the "history of pain" in the region.

Chinese fans were also quick to point out that local versions of the Friends: The Reunion expunged all LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) references and was several minutes shorter than the 104-minute show released worldwide on HBO Max on Thursday.

The sitcom about six white New Yorkers has a huge following among Chinese millennials and is even recommended in schools as a way to learn English.

The show's popularity has spawned Central Perk cafes in several Chinese cities, styled after the hangout regularly featured in the show. - AFP