China Censors John Oliver Because President Xi Looks A Bit Like Winnie The Pooh

from the thin-skinned dept

Whatever you do, don’t point out that some people think China’s President Xi Jinping vaguely resembles Winnie the Pooh.

HBO Comedian John Oliver recently learned this the hard way when Chinese users of popular social networking website Weibo found they weren’t able to mention Oliver by name without receiving an error message stating such comments violated “rules and regulations.” After that, censorship monitor GreatFire.org indicated that HBO?s website was blocked entirely for the lion’s share of the country since last weekend.

The cause of China’s efforts to remove Oliver from the internet? This recent twenty minute segment took a semi-deep dive into China’s political leadership, noting their abolition of term limits, ongoing censorship, the routine murder and/or imprisonment of political dissidents, the country’s rather terrifying implementation of “citizen scores,” and oh — the fact that some people think that Chinese President Xi has a semi-decent resemblance to a rotund, honey-adoring cartoon:

“Apparently, Xi Jinping is very sensitive about his perceived resemblance to Winnie the Pooh,? Mr. Oliver said on the show. ?And I?m not even sure it?s that strong a resemblance, to be honest. But the fact he?s annoyed about it means people will never stop bringing it up.”

Like most Chinese internet censorship, more technical users can get around the attempt to remove Oliver from the Chinese internet by using a VPN. That said, like Russia and other countries, China has been busy saddling VPN vendors with all manner of cumbersome restrictions as part of an effort to effectively ban the technology from widespread use. Last year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology declared that all VPN providers now needed prior government approval to operate, imposing fines up to $2000 on companies offering “unsanctioned” VPNs (read: nearly all of them).

Of course the censorship only proves Oliver’s point: that the country remains entirely intolerant to free speech, Xi has arguably thin skin, and the Chinese leader does, in fact, strike a fleeting resemblance to a certain pantless bear with self-esteem issues and an eating disorder:

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “China Censors John Oliver Because President Xi Looks A Bit Like Winnie The Pooh”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
28 Comments
Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

“HBO Comedian John Oliver recently learned this the hard way when Chinese users of popular social networking website Weibo found they weren’t able to mention Oliver by name…”

I’m sure Mr. Oliver is feeling butthurt by this action. Doubtless from falling on his ass laughing so hard.

Remember, the Streisand Effect treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

Phoenix84 (profile) says:

The hard way?

HBO Comedian John Oliver recently learned this the hard way when Chinese users of popular social networking website Weibo found they weren’t able to mention Oliver by name without receiving an error message stating such comments violated "rules and regulations."

If you think that, then you don’t know John Oliver.
I have no doubt he knew exactly what would happen.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Gotta love those own-goals

So a simple comparison to a character from a children’s book/show is enough to bring down the hammer, showing a thickness of skin that would make Turkey’s tin-pot dictator proud.

If something as simple and harmless as that is enough to bring out the censors I’d say it’s fairly safe to assume that much, much worse and damning things are being regularly hidden from the public, both in china and out.

On the plus side, if they are this desperate to clamp down on any dissent and/or criticism then it might be an indicator that they know they’re on increasingly shaky footing, and the public they rule over is gradually waking up to just how benevolent the chinese government is not.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: A lot of news about UK censorship

This may not correlate at all, but we have been getting news about a) you having to go to the local chemists to get your secret porn code, and b) the porn-blocking algorithms censoring all sorts of other stuff like Disney.

So it might be that YouTube has been advised by your state that no, the British laity are not worthy.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: A lot of news about UK censorship

It’s a geo-block. What really annoys me about this is that even if you offer to pay for access they’re having none of it. I’ve given up trying to be good — a Pirate’s life for me.

Seriously, make it affordable AND accessible and I’ll change my attitude. Until then, copyright can go stuff itself.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: A lot of news about UK censorship

It’s not even just "affordable and accessible".

The watchword on all of that is, or should be, "convenience".

As long as the sum of convenience minus inconvenience on the legal side of the divide is outweighed by the equivalent sum on the illegal side of the divide, people will continue to choose the illegal side. (And, of course, different people weigh individual convenient vs. inconvenient component factors differently.)

Having to pay is an inconvenience; so is risking penalties under the law. Being able to find what you want easily is a convenience; so is being able to access it from any device. There are many others, some on one side and some on the other, and some which apply in different ways to both.

If you want to change the balance of the equation so that people choose the legal side more often, you need to either increase convenience on the legal side, or decrease it on the illegal one.

What the industry companies have seemed to tend to do, however, is to pair each increase in convenience on the legal side with something that also decreases convenience on the same side; for example, pairing legal streaming with mandatory ad breaks, and/or with "you can’t get it all in one central place, you have to get our stuff directly from us", and/or with geoblocking.

Adding both a positive and a negative to the legal side of the equation isn’t a good way to tip the balance of the equation in that direction.

If any prospective change in what they offer on these matters were assessed in terms of the convenience equation, with price being only one element of convenience, I think that might significantly change the resulting picture.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »