Pig character in The Monkey King 2 film poster gets the chop in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Cinema posters and a billboard advertisement for a Hong Kong blockbuster film have been modified in Muslim-majority Malaysia to erase a half-man, half-pig character.

The Monkey King 2, an action-fantasy movie set to hit cinema screens during the Lunar New Year next month, has a star-studded cast including Gong Li and Aaron Kwok.

It is based on a Chinese novel about a monk who travels far and wide with his three disciples, including a half-man, half-pig character called Zhu Bajie.

Reports said the original posters showed the monk with all three disciples.

The film's distributor Golden Screen Cinemas said the pig character was not censored on government instructions. It gave no reason for the modification.

"Movie distributors have the discretion to modify the movie poster to suit the local environment," a spokesman told AFP on Wednesday (Jan 6).

Chapters from the novel Journey to the West have been adapted into various television series in previous years and were widely popular among the Chinese diaspora in South-east Asia, including Malaysia.

The deletion of the character attracted online ridicule on social media. One disgruntled fan called it "a sign of the time, the progressive Islamisation".

Malaysia has long practised a moderate form of Islam but conservative attitudes are rising.

Alcohol, pork and its by-products, and other animals not slaughtered according to Islamic procedures are all forbidden under the religion.

In the northern Malaysian island of Penang, the authorities removed a few structures resembling pigs from a playground in November after numerous complaints online.

Shoes lined with pigskin are labelled as such and covered in plastic at some Malaysian malls.