Sometimes art imitates life imitates art, and that happened this week after comedian John Oliver did an episode on censorship in China on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. Now China has blocked him for doing a show on Chinese censorship.
The New York Times reported that Oliver did a 20-plus minute segment on China and its leader, President Xi Jinping, and among other things, Oliver talked about Xi's resemblance to the fictional character, Winnie the Pooh. This and talk of censorship touched a nerve in China, which caused them to block access to the show which can be seen around the world normally.
Oliver set out to poke the bear (pun intended) by aiming for soft spots.
"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."
Even the name "John Oliver" is not allowed on the Chinese blogging platform Weibo (like a Chinese social media site). If someone types in Oliver's name, they receive an error message and cannot continue posting about the British comedian.The Oliver segment on China's leadership cast Xi as a cruel man with a record of civil rights abuses especially against the Uighur Muslims, and the imprisonment of intellectuals who disagree with Xi's philosophies. Oliver also talked at length about Xi removing term limits to become a "supreme leader."
"It's worth knowing that the term limits he had successfully eliminated were put in place for a pretty good reason, specifically to avoid another Mao, under whose regime some horrific things happened in China."
John Oliver wondered aloud about the kind of man who would be so sensitive about comparisons to a stuffed bear who likes honey.
"Clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn't exactly project strength."
The Huffington Post says that the words "Last Week Tonight" are also under scrutiny after last week's show aired poking fun at China's president and his policies. An error message continues to appear anytime someone tries to write about Oliver on the blogging site.
"The content contains information that violates relevant laws and regulations."
On YouTube alone, the China segment by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight has been viewed over 3.5 million times. Oliver's show airs on Sunday night on HBO, and individual segments usually post on YouTube the next day.