Censorship in China

China’s Twitter erases John Oliver after scathing attack on President Xi Jinping

British comedian scrubbed from social media after skit mentions ‘dystopian levels of surveillance and persecution’ of Uygurs in Xinjiang

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 5:42pm

British comedian John Oliver has been scrubbed from China’s internet after the host of Last Week Tonight ran a 20-minute segment satirising Chinese President Xi Jinping.

New posts mentioning his name or the show have been blocked on the Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo.

Oliver’s scathing parody of Xi on Sunday covered human rights abuses, “dystopian levels of surveillance and persecution” of Uygurs in China’s western Xinjiang region, the continued detention of Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo who died last year in state custody, and online censorship, including memes comparing Xi’s figure with that of Winnie the Pooh.

“Clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn’t exactly project strength. It suggests a weird insecurity,” Oliver said.

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Attempts to publish posts mentioning Oliver’s name or the name of the show resulted in an error message that the post violated “relevant laws, regulations, or violates Weibo community rules”.

Searches for Oliver’s name were not blocked on Weibo but the Chinese name of the show was censored.

The most recent comments about Oliver or the show were on June 14, before his segment on Xi aired, suggesting newer ones had been deleted.

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Clips of the show, uploaded by users, were still online on video platforms but his most recent segment on Xi was not on Weibo or other social media platforms. Oliver’s name did not appear to be censored on other platforms like Douban or Zhihu, a popular question and answer forum.

In his take down of Xi’s China, Oliver also highlighted the expansion of the social credit scoring system, the elimination of term limits made earlier this year, and China’s heavy economic influence around the world.

“Under Xi Jinping China is becoming more authoritarian just as it has major plans for expansion on the world stage … China has significant economic leverage and it has been using that to silence criticism even when criticism is very much warranted.”

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The show ended with a parody of an advertisement promoting China’s massive trade and infrastructure development project, known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”, with children singing, “This is the China Xi doesn’t want you to see, and that’s the reason why you better watch this guy.”