The cartoon, “South Park,” known for its irreverent — and often pointed — political humor, has been banned in China and mentions of it removed from the internet after the show poked fun at Chinese censors in its latest episode.
The episode, appropriately titled “Band in China,” mocked American submission to Chinese government demands, and for that, Business Insider reports, “South Park’s” creators got precisely what they predicted (and, arguably, asked for).
The Hollywood Reporter adds that “South Park” has been “scrubbed from the internet” in the Asian powerhouse country, and Chinese authorities have deleted “all clips, episodes, and discussions of the Comedy Central show” from the government-run social network, Weibo, and from the Chinese YouTube clone, Youku.
“A cursory perusal through China’s highly regulated Internet landscape shows the show conspicuously absent everywhere it recently had a presence. A search of the Twitter-like social media service Weibo turns up not a single mention of South Park among the billions of past posts. On streaming service Youku, owned by Internet giant Alibaba, all links to clips, episodes and even full seasons of the show are now dead,” according to the Hollywood reporter.
Other Chinese networks were clear that viewers were banned by the government from accessing “South Park” by design. “If users manually type in the URL for what was formerly the South Park thread [on China’s discussion forum, Baidu], a message appears saying that, ‘According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open.’”
The episode was a one-two punch at China over both its strict censorship of American media and its use of concentration camps to hold political prisoners, including more than one million ethnic Chinese Muslims. In it, Randy is sent to a Chinese indoctrination camp, “similar to those Beijing has been using in Xinjiang Provence to hold as many as a million Chinese Muslims for political indoctrination” after he’s caught selling marijuana while on vacation.
The show’s main characters, Stan, Jimmy, Kenny and Butters, form a metal band that becomes intensely popular in China and inspires a documentary, which, subsequently, has to be edited over and over (including by Chinese government officials) to meet censorship requirements for Chinese distribution. The boys eventually begin a new band and vow not to support anyone who changes their art for China. Randy ends up fully indoctrinated (and then some).
The episode even poked fun at China’s ban on Winnie the Pooh, which they instituted after Chinese citizens were reportedly using the Disney character to mock Chinese president-for-life Xi Jinping, and skewered both Disney and Marvel for repeatedly bowing to Chinese censors.
The episode was very timely, as the Hollywood Reporter points out. On Sunday, the NBA and the Houston Rockets basketball team was forced to issue a groveling apology to China after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey dared to express support for pro-democracy protests currently taking place in Hong Kong in a single Tweet.
The move met with anger from both sides of the aisle, and both the NBA and Morey were deeply criticized for trying to “save” the NBA’s presence in China by begging for Chinese forgiveness.