South Park’s creators have responded with a mock apology to reports that China has censored the program, ridiculing the country and comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to Winnie the Pooh.
The “apology” from Trey Parker and Matt Stone comes after reports on Monday that China had scrubbed all episodes, clips and content related to the long-running comedy cartoon from Chinese streaming and social media platforms in response to a recent episode that was critical of the country.
The episode, called Band in China, took aim at what it portrayed as a tendency in US culture to adjust content to accommodate Chinese censorship laws.
“I can’t sell my soul like this,” says one character in the episode, who was under pressure from Chinese censors to rewrite his music. “It’s not worth living in a world where China controls my country’s art.”
The episode also includes a plot line in which a character is caught selling drugs in China and as punishment is sent to a work camp, similar to the mass internment camps in Xinjiang where an estimated 1 million people, including Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, are detained.
South Park’s creators posted a statement on Twitter under the headline: “Official apology to China from Trey Parker and Matt Stone,” which said: “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts.”
The NBA has been in damage control this week after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in a now-deleted tweet.
The NBA distanced itself from Morey’s position after complaints from NBA sponsors in China and Chinese companies refusing to broadcast Rockets games.
“We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all,” the statement continued, referring to China’s ban on the A.A. Milne character, after widespread circulation of memes comparing Xi to the honey-loving teddy bear.
“Tune in to our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?” the statement said.
Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo yesterday showed no results for the search term “South Park” in English or Chinese, although it does show truncated results if the search term is mixed language.
Searching for the show on Baidu Tieba forum results in the notice: “Sorry, the results will not be displayed in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.”
Video platform Youku also returns no results, though some clips still appear on Tudou, another video hosting platform. The Band in China episode is not one of them.
Parker and Stone’s response to China stands in stark contrast to that of major Western brands who have quickly beaten a retreat when faced with potential losses in China’s huge — and fiercely nationalistic — consumer market.
Companies ranging from airlines to fashion houses have issued fulsome apologies, often after being accused of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.”
Additional reporting by AFP
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