'People's hero' Guo Degang unapologetic after BTV calls for national boycott

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 12:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 3:56pm

Guo Degang, the popular Chinese comedian who caused a storm last month with a social media message widely read as making fun of the death of a powerful TV station head and long-time rival, has remained unapologetic on Tuesday despite Beijing Television Station's call to ban him from networks across the country.

As of Tuesday, more than 80 per cent of 14,000 net users have objected to the ban in an online poll that showed support for the defiant Guo.

Dubbed the "the saviour of cross talk" - a popular street art that originated in Beijing during the Qing dynasty - Guo is widely hailed for rejuvenating the dying performance by bringing back a young and middle-class audience. Fans flock to Beijing from all over the country, willing to spend hundreds and even thousands of yuan for a seat at Guo’s show.

Viewed as a grass-roots artist, Guo’s dark sense of humour and his audacious take on Chinese politics - a topic constantly censored in official media - has won him the title  “people’s hero".

Guo’s history of animosity with BTV started in 2010 after one of his assistants got into a fight with a BTV reporter at his house. BTV had sent reporters to his home on an assignment to disclose construction violations at his mansion. The incident made national headlines after Guo publicly compared  BTV to “prostitutes” and accused them of untruthful reporting. Guo apologised two months later. 

On November 20, the station lashed out at Guo after he posted a Chinese limerick seen as an “insult” to the former head of the government-owned network who had died of cancer. In a Weibo post published a day after Wang Xiaodong’s death, Guo appeared to imply, through wordplay, relief and joy at the “rightful retribution” of Wang’s demise.

“The narrow-mindedness and wickedness similar to a chicken’s intestine is no longer to be found,” he wrote, possibly alluding to Wang. An image of “double happiness,” a traditional Chinese ornament often shown in weddings, is also posted along his message.

The post immediately angered many readers who slammed Guo as being “insensitive” and “disrespectful”. Guo deleted the post on the same day, yet it failed to pacify BTV.

The state-run broadcaster issued a joint statement with China Radio and Television Association on Saturday, accusing Guo of tramping on social morals and calling for a national ban on the comedian’s shows.

BTV’s workers have taken their anger to the most unlikely of places. A photo recently uploaded on Weibo showed that BTV’s cafeteria now featured a new dish called “Deep Fried Gang,” a telling sign of how hated the comedian is by the former employees of the person he attacked.

Zhao Pu, a Beijing blogger who used to work for BTV, blamed both Guo and BTV for escalating the crisis in one of his blog posts.

“I am a fan of Guo, but I believed he did wrong in attacking Wang in this manner,” Zhao wrote, “Meanwhile, BTV and Wang’s families should have resorted to legal means instead of imposing a ban on Guo.”

Guo didn’t respond to inquiries made by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.