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China bans HBO after John Oliver’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’ skit angers President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to deputies at the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
June 26, 2018

China recently blocked HBO’s online streaming content in China in response to comedian John Oliver’s segment where he made fun of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his likeliness to Winnie the Pooh.

Oliver, who hosts “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” criticized China’s human rights record and tied it to President Jinping’s leadership.

Oliver specifically made fun of Jinping for banning Winnie the Pooh after Chinese internet trolls compared the character to their president.

China banned internet users from searching Winnie the Pooh following the viral spread of Xi-Pooh memes.

While HBO isn’t generally available to Chinese consumers via cable and satellite, they have had access to HBO’s streaming service, which is similar to HBO Go in the U.S.

Chinese consumers haven’t had access to the streaming service since Saturday, and it appears to be indefinitely banned.

Oliver called Jinping a “creepy uncle who imprisons 800,000 people in his basement” and said that “clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn’t exactly project strength. It suggests a weird insecurity.”

Censorship efforts are in full force by the Chinese Communist Party to remove any mention of Oliver from the popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

“China has never exactly been known as a haven for free expression. He has clamped down noticeably on any form of dissent whatsoever. Apparently, Xi Jinping is very sensitive about his perceived resemblance to Winnie the Pooh, 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,” Oliver said during the segment.

Censorship in China has been on the rise since Jinping took power.

China employs a massive censorship team to ensure that the internet is free of anything that the government doesn’t support.

When the Chinese Communist Party announced in early 2018 that presidential term limits would be removed, online censorship efforts were pushed into overdrive.

Phrases such as “I don’t agree” and “re-election” were closely monitored on China’s various social media sites.

Chinese social media users have noticed content that is posted that is critical of the country’s president is usually deleted within minutes.

“I’ve posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again. I oppose to the amendment of the ‘no more than two consecutive terms of office’ as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution,” one micro-blogger said.

Images and information related to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests where Chinese citizens were killed by the Peoples Liberation Army have also been heavily censored by Chinese authorities.