The popular musicians are thought to have been removed from the one-off special on account of insulting the country in the past, as the BBC reports.
Bieber was banned from the country in 2017 by the Chinese government. “Justin Bieber is a gifted singer, but he is also a controversial young singer”, the Chinese culture bureau explained in a statement at the time.
“As far as we are concerned, he has engaged in a series of bad behaviours, both in his social life and during a previous performance in China, which caused discontent among the public.”
BTS, meanwhile, were thought to have angered the state after they failed to mention the sacrifices of Chinese soldiers during the Korean War during an acceptance speech in 2020.
Lady Gaga is believed to have fallen out of favour with the country after meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016 – a figure China considers to be a figurehead for Tibetan separatism and therefore dangerous.
The move to edit out the celebrities left Chinese fans upset. Some have since sourced and shared the deleted clips on social media on their own, while others circulated links to the uncensored, full episode, hosted on piracy sites.
The unedited version of the special showed Gaga perform a duet of ‘Smelly Cat’ with Friends star Lisa Kudrow. Bieber appeared on the show in Ross’s ‘Spudnik’ Halloween costume.
During the show, which NME described as “a shameless nostalgia fest”, co-stars Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer admitted to having real-life feelings for each other early in the show’s run.
In a bittersweet moment, in spite of the special’s warm reception, Courteney Cox confirmed that the co-stars will never reunite on-screen again.
“Like, we’re not going to do this [again] in 15 more years,” she said.